Ministers defend use of armed officers in 5,000 routine incidents last year
The use of armed officers in more than 5,000 routine incidents last year has been defended by ministers.
Community Safety Minister Ash Denham said that allowing armed officers to attend routine calls was “sensible use of police time”.
Police attended 5,250 incidents that did not need a firearms response, a BBC Scotland investigation found, following a policy change that permitted them to do so.
Officers were carrying handguns and Tasers and also had access to other weapons including semi-automatic G36 carbine rifles.
Armed officers also helped find more than 3,500 missing people since their remit was extended in May last year. They have also provided medical assistance in over 600 incidents.
Ms Denhams said the deployments were “an operational matter” for the chief constable.
She also said that 524 of Police Scotland’s 17,000 officers were armed and that they were involved in 0.3 per cent of the 1.8 million incidents that occurred.
She told MSPs: “Changes have allowed armed officers to utilise their core policing skills and attend incidents where speed of response or vulnerability was a key factor.”
Scottish Liberal Democrats MSP Liam Mcarthur said: “Officers and the public they serve are rightly proud of the ability of the police to do their jobs day in day out without carrying guns.
“The previous model saw firearms officers storing their weapons in the boot of their armed response vehicles. When police chiefs reflect on how the current policy is operating later this month, I hope they will reconsider whether discarding this model so quickly was the right thing to do.”
Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr said: “These are highly-trained individuals operating at the very top of their careers. There’s far too much pretend outrage about this issue.”