Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP has demanded that Police Scotland be more upfront with Parliament and the SPA after it was revealed armed officers have attended 1644 routine incidents in the past five months.
The figures were disclosed by senior officers following repeated questioning by Alison McInnes during the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing evidence session on armed police today. Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins said these proactive routine interactions with the public included responding to driving offences and assisting in the search for missing people.
On 1 October 2014 in response to public concern, Police Scotland announced that “the Chief Constable has directed that firearms officers attached to Armed Response Vehicles will now only be deployed to firearms incidents or where there is a threat to life”.
Responding to the admission, Ms McInnes said:
“Once again the whole truth had to be coaxed out of senior officers. Only my repeated questioning caused them to reveal armed officers have intervened in non-firearms incidents and situations where there is no threat to life on 1644 occasions since 1 October 2014.
“Despite the fact this has been one of its most controversial policies, Police Scotland has again chosen not to be wholly upfront with either Parliament or the SPA to which they are accountable. Senior officers seem to operate on a need-to-know basis which is limited to their own ranks.
“It is surprising the SPA didn’t see fit to monitor the attendance of armed officers to routine incidents and the police didn’t see fit to tell them.
“Police Scotland must provide clarity on what routine incidents armed officers have attended in recent months. Senior officers must also commit to being transparent and open about these figures and commit to providing watchdogs with regular updates.”