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British police warn against arming officers

The president of Britain's Association of Chief Police Officers calls on the government not to allow all the police officers to be armed

AFP , Wednesday 19 Sep 2012
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A top British policeman warned on Wednesday against rushing into any move to routinely arm officers after two unarmed policewomen were killed in a gun and grenade attack.

Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23, died after going to investigate a reported robbery in Tameside, Greater Manchester, northwestern England, on Tuesday.

The killings have reopened a long-running debate about whether British police should regularly carry weapons like their counterparts in the United States and other countries.

But Hugh Orde, the president of Britain's Association of Chief Police Officers and a former police chief in Northern Ireland, cautioned against such a move.

"Guns don't necessarily solve the problem," he told BBC radio.

"You only have to look at the American experience. Many colleagues in America are lost without even drawing their gun at close ranges."

He said it was the "clear view of the British police service from top to bottom" that they prefer to be unarmed because members of the public dislike approaching officers carrying weapons, Orde said.

Most British police officers do not routinely carry weapons, although armed police do however protect sensitive sites and all forces have armed response units.

An increasing number also carry Taser stun guns.

Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday said the killings should not reopen the weapons debate, adding that the incident was "supposed to be the response to a domestic burglary and that wouldn't normally require armed officers."

Interior minister Theresa May cut short a holiday on Wednesday to travel to Manchester.

Police meanwhile admitted that the man arrested on suspicion of the killings of the policewomen, Dale Cregan, had been released on bail in June after being questioned about another murder.

Cregan, 29, handed himself in to a police station on Tuesday after the police officers were killed.

He was already one of Britain's most wanted men, having been suspected of involvement in the murders of a father and son, David and Mark Short, in separate incidents in August and May respectively.

Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Peter Fahy said it was "absolutely normal" that during some investigations there is insufficient evidence to charge a suspect.

"In those circumstances suspects have to be released on bail as there are strict time limits covering how long suspects can be held in custody without charge. That is exactly what happened in this case."

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