Vocable (Anglais) - - Société Sécurité -

Si, en Ir­lande du Nord, tous les po­li­ciers portent des armes à feu, c’est très loin d’être le cas dans le reste du Royaume-Uni. Cette tra­di­tion re­mon­tant au XIXème siècle, ayant ser­vi à ga­gner la confiance de la po­pu­la­tion, est un su­jet de dé­bat ré­cur­rent au­jourd’hui ra­vi­vé par la sé­rie d’at­ten­tats mor­tels de Londres et Man­ches­ter. Faut-il ar­mer toutes les forces de l’ordre ?

Wi­thin eight mi­nutes of three ter­ro­rists be­gin­ning their mur­de­rous ram­page at Lon­don Bridge in June, ar­med po­lice had shot them dead. But not be­fore the cri­mi­nals had killed eight people and in­ju­red ma­ny more. Of­fi­cers were al­rea­dy at the scene but, unar­med, they had been unable to stop them. In March Keith Pal­mer, an unar­med po­lice constable, was killed trying to stop Kha­lid Ma­sood’s at­tack at West­mins­ter. These recent “ma­rau­ding” ter­ro­rist in­ci­dents have pro­vo­ked de­bate in Bri­tain about whe­ther more of its po­lice should carry guns.


2. Bri­tain is unu­sual in how light­ly it arms its po­lice. It is one of on­ly five mem­bers of the OECD, a group of 35 main­ly rich coun­tries, that does not rou­ti­ne­ly give of­fi­cers guns. Be­cause of its par­ti­cu­lar his­to­ry, po­lice in Nor­thern Ire­land are com­mon­ly ar­med. But in En­gland and Wales on­ly around 5% of the 123,000 of­fi­cers carry guns. The num­ber of fi­rearms ope­ra­tions de­cli­ned by 36% bet­ween 2009 and 2016, pos­si­bly as a re­sult of wi­der use of non-le­thal wea­pons such as Ta­sers by the po­lice.

3. Ar­med of­fi­cers open fire ra­re­ly. In the eight years to March 2016 po­lice di­schar­ged their guns du­ring just 40 in­ci­dents. Since 1990, 67 people have been killed in po­lice shoo­tings in En­gland and Wales. In Ame­ri­ca, where guns are wi­des­pread among both the po­lice and the ge­ne­ral po­pu­la­tion, al­most 1,000 people were killed by the po­lice last year alone. Bri­tain spends more time trai­ning its ar­med of­fi­cers not to fire their wea­pons than to shoot, says Pe­ter Ney­roud, a for­mer chief constable.


4. Could ar­ming the po­lice more wi­de­ly make both them and the pu­blic sa­fer? The num­ber of of­fi­cers in En­gland and Wales has fal­len by 18% since 2010. With fe­wer cop­pers, gi­ving

Guns en­hance of­fi­cers’ sense of sa­fe­ty but not ne­ces­sa­ri­ly their ac­tual sa­fe­ty.

those that re­main guns would be li­te­ral­ly ano­ther wea­pon in their ar­se­nal in re­spon­ding to crime.

5.But ar­ming of­fi­cers can al­so make them more li­ke­ly to take risks and en­gage in dan­ge­rous si­tua­tions, ac­cor­ding to a stu­dy by Ross Hen­dy, a re­sear­cher at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge and po­li­ce­man in New Zea­land, where po­lice are ge­ne­ral­ly unar­med. Guns en­hance of­fi­cers’ sense of sa­fe­ty but not ne­ces­sa­ri­ly their ac­tual sa­fe­ty. In Nor­way po­lice ge­ne­ral­ly keep guns in their cars (al­though those in big ci­ties are tem­po­ra­ri­ly car­rying wea­pons, in res­ponse to the threat of ter­ro­rism) but must ask for per­mis­sion to use them. That means a de­lay of a few min­car­rying utes be­fore any shots are fi­red. Such de­lays al­low of­fi­cers to consi­der how best to ap­proach the si­tua­tion and to call for back up. On ave­rage, se­ven of­fi­cers were present at each in­ci­dent in­vol­ving fi­rearms in Nor­way, com­pa­red with on­ly three in Swe­den, where po­lice rou­ti­ne­ly carry guns.

6. A wi­des­pread roll-out of fi­rearms in Bri­tain is un­li­ke­ly in the near fu­ture. Ar­med of­fi­cers volunteer for the role and are high­ly trai­ned. Their num­ber has fal­len in recent years and re­crui­ting more is pro­ving hard. Trai­ning large num­bers of cop­pers to use guns would be ex­pen­sive, and po­lice bud­gets have been cut. And po­lice have mixed fee­lings about guns; about a tenth of of­fi­cers in Lon­don say they would ra­ther quit their job than do so.

(Ser­gey Po­no­ma­rev/The New York Times)

Po­lice se­cure the area around the Par­lia­ment of Great Bri­tain in Lon­don, March 22, 2017.

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