Great Britain has been Reducing and Disarming the Police

By Dean Weingarten

UK Police Disarming
Dean Weingarten
Dean Weingarten

Arizona -( In a recent article in The Guardian, it was reported that police chiefs in England and Wales are considering offering the possibility of being armed with a handgun to all frontline officers.


Police chiefs will consider the possibility of offering a gun to every frontline police officer in England and Wales, to counter the threat of a marauding terrorist attack, the Guardian has learned.

A discussion paper on the subject has been drawn up for the next meeting of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), which wants to look at how to boost armed police numbers to deal with a crisis, following the atrocities in Manchester and London.

The paper is intended to start a debate on the issue among police leaders at the two-day meeting that starts on 12 July – although it is thought at this stage unlikely that any wider arming will be agreed upon. Routine arming is controversial within policing and many do not support it.

The chart in the Guardian gives us some numbers from the UK government. These are numbers that I have not seen elsewhere.

They tell us how many authorized firearms officers there are in England and Wales. Government sources were relied on for the total number of frontline officers. The total number of frontline officers has dropped by 11 percent from the high in 2010.

The peak number of operational frontline officers was 125,799 on 31 March, 2010. The number of authorized firearms officers is not as precise. It was measured from the chart. If a reader is able to find the government documents that the Guardian references for authorized firearms officer, send us a link. Authorized firearms officers were about 6865, or 5.5 percent of frontline officers.

There were 113,134 operational frontline police officers as of March 31, 2015.

There were a little over 5600 authorized officers as of March 31, 2015. The number is essentially the same in 2016.

About 5 percent of frontline officers in England and Wales are authorized firearms officers. That does not necessarily mean that they are armed whenever they are working. It may mean that some of them are usually unarmed, but can be armed if called upon to do so.  That policy may have changed, but years ago, I was told it was the way things worked in England.

The number of frontline officers has dropped by 11 percent from the peak in 2010. The number of authorized firearms officers has dropped about 21 percent from the peak.

Officers have to be available for coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Given work hours, sick leave, and vacations. I would expect no more than about 1/5 of the officers to be on duty at any one time. At any given time, in England and Wales, there are about 1,100 authorized firearms officers on duty.

The population of England and Wales in 2016 was about 58.38 million.

The population of the United States in 2016 was about 324.1 million. The U.S.A. has about 5.55 times the population of England and Wales. The U.S.A has about 765,000 sworn full time officers, or about 20 percent more officers per capita.

But virtually all of them are armed.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

Link to Gun Watch


About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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Webfoot Logger

I thought I’d play with numbers a little more and extend the comparison a bit . . . Let’s see . . . 113,134 British police officers for 80,823 square miles* of land gives us an average of 0.7144 square miles per officer. If we presume that an average of 20% are on duty at any given moment, this gives us 3.5720 square miles per officer. (A population of 58.38 million gives an average population density of 722.3191 residents per square mile . . . an interesting number illustrating some important differences.) In the US, 765,000 US officers and 3,796,742… Read more »