Rt Hon Suella Braverman KC MP
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
04 September 2023
An inspection of how effective police forces are in the deployment of firearms
I am writing to you in response to the above HMICFRS report published on 11th July 2023. The national inspection examined how effective police forces are in the deployment of firearms, and sought to establish whether the public can be confident that police policies, structures and processes comply with relevant guidance and legislation.
Alongside identifying good practice, the inspectorate identified a number of improvements to be made, resulting in 12 national recommendations (7 of which were for local forces). Below I set out how the Chief Constable in West Mercia will address these recommendations. In many cases, delivery against the local recommendations is reliant on or will be informed by regional and national activity. This includes regional and national coordination, and changes to national guidance and Authorised Professional Practice (APP).
Recommendation 2: By 31 July 2024 Chief Constables should make sure there is access to both specialist strategic firearms commanders and specialist tactical firearms commanders, through a 24-hour rota covering their region.
The force continues to work closely with West Midlands Police to support the development and mentoring of specialist strategic and tactical firearms candidates. Specialist tactical firearms commander training is planned with an appropriate candidate identified from West Mercia. National and regional coordination is required to support all forces to deliver against this recommendation, and conversations are ongoing in respect of a regional rota.
Recommendation 3 – By 31 October 2023, all Chief Constables should make sure the armed response vehicle asset tracking equipment, as provided by Counter Terrorism Policing, is available and used in their forces. They should train relevant staff in its use.
Asset tracking through the Airbox software has been distributed across the force as appropriate. Assurance has been provided that taskforce and tactical advisors have appropriate training and awareness to utilise the asset tracking equipment. Further training requirements have been identified for Commanders, which will be progressed.
Recommendation 5 – By 31 December 2023, all Chief Constables should make sure that all strategic and tactical firearms commanders have observed the firearms tactics and the use of specialist munitions they can authorise, before being operationally deployed.
Successful delivery against this recommendation is in part dependant on amendments to national APP. In support of the recommendation, the force firearms lead has arranged observation sessions for commanders within West Mercia to ensure this recommendation is met.
Recommendation 6 – By 31 December 2023, Chief Constables should make sure that the annual accreditation process for strategic and tactical firearms commanders includes familiarisation with any new weapons systems and observation of any new tactics or specialist munitions the force has introduced or is planning to introduce.
As above, successful delivery against this recommendation in part requires the revised APP to be published, to enable the Chief Constable to review the annual accreditation process for strategic and tactical firearms commanders.
Recommendation 8 – With immediate effect, each assistant chief constable regional firearms lead should attend all National Armed Policing Portfolio meetings. If they are unable to attend, they should make sure another assistant chief constable armed policing lead from a force in their region attends on their behalf.
I am pleased to report the regional ACC lead for firearms (from West Midlands Police) has always attended the National Armed Policing Portfolio meetings, and shares updates across the region as appropriate.
Recommendation 10- With immediate effect, Chief Constables should improve senior officer oversight of their armouries, including an independent annual audit.
As above, successful delivery against this recommendation in part requires national activity. It is anticipated that the revised College of Policing armoury guidance will include further direction for forces in relation to audit and oversight.
Recommendation 12 – With immediate effect, Chief Constables, through their armed policing governance structure, should make sure that all armed deployment records are stored and auditable.
I am pleased to report that West Mercia Police is already in a good position in respect of this recommendation with all armed deployment records recorded and retained on Chronicle, an auditable system.
As set out in my Safer West Mercia Plan, I remain committed to ensuring West Mercia manages its specialist resources and capabilities to maximise value, effectiveness, efficiency and meet demand. I welcome the national HMICFRS report which will support local forces, the College of Policing and National Police Chiefs’ Council leads to continue to improve a national system which already has good governance and structures.
Although West Mercia was not inspected as part of the report, it provides useful reflections on current practice which I will use to inform my ongoing assurance and accountability activity in respect of force operations and firearms.
Police and Crime Commissioner
cc West Mercia Police Chief Constable