Guidelines for police on issue & use of firearms (Statewatch archive)

[These guidelines were adopted in February 1987, replacing the ones of March 1983]

Principles governing issue

1. Firearms are to be issued only where there is reason to believe that a police officer may have to face a person who is armed or otherwise so dangerous that he could not safely be restrained without the use of firearms; they may also be issued for protection purposes or for the destruction of
dangerous animals.

Principles governing use

2. Firearms are to be fired by police officers only as a last resort when conventional methods have been tried and failed, or must, from the nature of the circumstances obtaining, be unlikely to succeed if tried. They may be fired, for example, when it is apparent that a police officer cannot achieve the lawful purpose of preventing loss, or further loss, of life by any other means.

Authority to issue

3. Authority to issue firearms should be given by an officer of ACPO rank, save where a delay in getting in touch with such an officer could result in loss of life or serious injury, in which case a Chief Superintendent or Superintendent may authorise issue. In such circumstances an officer of ACPO rank should be informed as soon as possible. Special arrangements may apply where firearms are issued regularly for protection purposes, but these should be authorised by an officer of ACPO rank in the first instance.

Conditions of issue and use

4. The ACPO Manual of Guidance on the Police Use of Firearms is the single authoritative source of guidance on tactical and operational matters relating to the use of firearms by the police.

5. Firearms should be issued only to officers who have been trained and authorised in a particular class of weapon. Officers authorised to use firearms must attend regular refresher courses and those failing to do so or to reach the qualifying standard will lose their authorisation and must not thereafter be issued with firearms. Authorised firearms officers must hold an authorisation card showing the type(s) of weapon that may be issued to them. The authorisation card must be produced before a weapon is Issued and must always be carried when the officer is armed. The card holder's signature in the issue register should be verified against the signature on the officer's warrant card. The card should be issued without alteration and should have an expiry date.

6. Records of issue and operational use must be maintained. All occasions on which shots are fired by police officers other than to destroy animals must be thoroughly investigated by a senior officer and a full written report prepared.

Briefing

7. In any armed operation briefing by senior officers is of paramount Importance and must include both authorised firearms officers and non-firearms personnel involved in the operation. Senior officers must stress the objective of the operation including specifically the individual responsibility of authorised firearms officers. Particular attention must be paid to the possible presence of innocent parties.

Use of minimum force

8. Nothing In these guidelines affects the principle, to which Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 gives effect, that only such force as is reasonable in the circumstances may be used. The degree of force justified will vary according to the circumstances of each case. Responsibility for firing a weapon rests with the individual officer and a decision to do so may have to be justified in legal proceedings.

Warning

9. If it is reasonable to do so an oral warning is to be given before opening fire.

10. Urgent steps are to be taken Lo ensure that early medical attention is provided for any casualties.

Summary

11. A brief summary of the most important points for an individual officer is attached. It is suggested that this summary be placed on the reverse side of each authorisation card so that officers will have it with them whenever they are armed.

AUTHORISED FIREARMS OFFICERS
GUIDELINES ON USE OF MINIMUM FORCE

The Law

Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 reads:

"A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in the effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large."

Strict reminder

A firearm is to be fired only as a last resort. Other methods must have been tried and failed, or must - because of the circumstances - be unlikely to succeed if tried. For example, a firearm may be fired when it is apparent that the police cannot achieve their lawful purpose of preventing loss, or further loss, of life by any other means. If it is reasonable to do so an oral warning is to be given before opening fire.

Individual Responsibility

The responsibility for the USE of the firearm is an INDIVIDUAL decision which may have to be justified in legal proceedings.
REMEMBER THE LAW. REMEMBER YOUR TRAINING.



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