A national shortage of armed police is leaving Britain vulnerable to terror attack, the Police Federation of England and Wales has said.
Officers are not volunteering to carry guns because they fear being “hung out to dry” and treated like a suspect if they discharge their weapon, the federation claimed.
Its chairman, Steve White, warned Government plans to train another 1,500 firearms officers to deal with the terror threat looked doubtful.
The warning comes as a survey of 16,800 officers shows that while 40% fear they will be attacked at work, just half this number (20%) have or want personal firearms.
Mr White said: “Before we even start talking about recruiting the extra 1,500, we are struggling to fill the vacancies we have currently got because of the lack of understanding and protection that officers would have if they have to discharge their firearm.
“That’s what this survey says — we do fear violence, but officers don’t want to carry firearms because they are concerned that if they discharge it, they are going to get arrested for murder.
“The government has got to provide a message to the service, not that it has a get out of jail free card, but that officers will be supported appropriately and fairly in order to encourage officers to step forward and take on additional responsibility.”
British prime minister David Cameron announced last month that money will be ring-fenced to boost the number of firearms officers but Mr White warned that there are “worrying” inconsistencies in the service nationally that have left some forces without firearms officers.
He added: “This isn’t necessarily about the individual police officers, this is about our ability as a service to provide the level of protection that members of the public quite rightly expect.
“I think the public think we have a lot more firearms officers than we actually have. They probably think we’re all equipped with Tasers. It isn’t the case.”
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