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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/police-use-of-firearms-statistics-england-and-wales-april-2015-to-march-2016/police-use-of-firearms-statistics-england-and-wales-april-2015-to-march-2016
This release contains statistics on police use of firearms from the 43 Home Office police forces in England and Wales in the year ending 31 March 2016. It details the total number of:
- police firearms operations1 including operations involving Armed Response Vehicles (ARVs)
- incidents in which police firearms were discharged2
- authorised firearms officers3 (AFOs)
- AFOs compared with the total number of all police officers
The user guide provides additional information on the statistics in this release. It also includes a glossary and sections on data quality and revisions.
The figures in this release cover the period between the years ending March 2009 and March 2016. Although figures prior to the year ending 31 March 2009 are available they have not gone through the same quality assurance processes (including data confirmation, validation or variance checks) as those applied to the figures presented in this release (see the quality and methodology section of the user guide).
The figures in this release can be found in the ‘Police use of firearms, England and Wales, April 2015 to March 2016 tables’.
2. Headline figures
- there were a total of 14,753 police firearms operations in the year ending March 2016; this represents a slight increase of 68 (0.5%) police firearms operations when compared with the previous year
- in the year ending March 2016, 85% of firearms operations involved Armed Response Vehicles (ARVs), compared with 84% in the previous year
- there were seven incidents in which police discharged firearms in the year ending March 2016, up from six incidents in the previous year
- there were 5,639 authorised firearms officers (AFOs) on 31 March 2016; a decrease of eight AFOs when compared with the previous year
3. Police firearms operations including operations involving Armed Response Vehicles (ARVs)
In the year ending March 2016, there were 14,753 police firearms operations in England and Wales. Although there was a slight increase of 68 police firearms operations, the level remains similar to that of the year ending March 2015. Since the year ending March 2009, there has been an overall decrease of 8,428 (-36%) police firearms operations.
Figure 1 shows that between the years ending March 2009 and March 2015, there has been a consistent downward trend in the overall number of firearms operations. However, in the year ending March 2016, there was a slight increase of 68 firearms operations.
In the year ending March 2016, 12,471 (85%) of all firearms operations involved ARVs. This represents a slight increase of 184 (1%) on the previous year and an overall decrease of 6,403 (-34%) since the year ending March 2009.
Figure 1: Police firearms operations including operations involving ARVs, England and Wales, year ending March 2009 to 2016
Table 1 shows that the proportion of operations involving ARVs remained fairly stable between March 2009 and March 2014, accounting for between 80% and 82% of all firearms operations. In addition, there has been a slight increase in the proportion of operations involving ARVs in the last two years with the figure for the year ending March 2016 now at 85%.
Table 1: Number of police firearms operations and the proportion of which involved Armed Response Vehicles (ARVs), England and Wales, year ending March 2009 to March 2016
|March 2009||March 2010||March 2011||March 2012||March 2013||March 2014||March 2015||March 2016|
|Total number of firearms operations||23,181||21,337||19,586||16,930||15,475||14,939||14,685||14,753|
|Proportion of which do not involve ARVs||19%||20%||20%||19%||18%||19%||16%||15%|
|Proportion of which involve ARVs||81%||80%||80%||81%||82%||81%||84%||85%|
1. Operations in which the issue of firearms was authorised.
2. The following are excluded from the figures: operations where officers were stood down before being deployed (e.g. the operation was cancelled before arrival or officers did not move from a rendezvous point into actual deployment);
deployments for VIP protection, armed prisoner escorts, airport patrols, other guarding duties, and routine patrols.
3. Percentages have been rounded.
London accounted for the largest proportion of all police firearms operations in the year ending March 2016, 28% or 4,070 firearms operations. The North East accounted for the smallest proportion, 2% or 367 firearms operations.
London also experienced the largest change in the number of police firearms operations between the year ending March 2015 and March 2016, a decrease of 643 (-14%) firearms operations. The North West experienced the smallest change in the number of police firearms operations with a decrease of 14 (-1%) firearms operations.
In the year ending March 2016, 93% of Wales’ police firearms operations involved ARVs, the highest proportion of all regions. In the same period, ARVs were involved in 73% of Yorkshire and the Humber’s firearms operations, the lowest proportion of all regions.
4. Incidents in which police firearms were discharged
In the year ending March 2016, there were seven incidents in which police discharged firearms. Table 2 shows that the number of incidents has been seven or fewer in each of the last eight years.
Table 2: Number of incidents in which police firearms were discharged in England and Wales, year ending 31 March 2009 to 31 March 2016
|March 2009||March 2010||March 2011||March 2012||March 2013||March 2014||March 2015||March 2016|
|Number of incidents||6||6||4||4||3||4||6||7|
Source: National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and Home Office.
Figures are for the 43 Home Office forces in England and Wales.
1. Number of incidents where conventional firearms were discharged. The figures exclude less-lethal weapons (see glossary section in the user guide).
2. Excludes accidental discharges and discharges for animal destruction, during police training and deflating tyres.
3. Figures in previous publications used data submitted to the NPCC. Figures in this publication for the years ending March 2012 to March 2016 use information submitted to the Home Office via the Annual Data Requirement, which has been confirmed by police forces. Following the data confirmation exercise the figure for the year ending March 2014 increased from 2 incidents to 4 incidents (see revisions section in the user guide).
5. Authorised firearms officers (AFOs)
5.1 Trends in the number of AFOs between 31 March 2009 and 31 March 2016
There were 5,639 AFOs on 31 March 2016 which remains at a similar level to the 5,647 AFOs in the previous year. Figure 2 shows that between 31 March 2009 and 31 March 2016, there has been a decrease of 1,267 (-18%) AFOs. Figure 2 also shows that on 31 March 2010 there were 6,976 AFOs, the highest since March 2002 when the series began. However, the number of AFOs has since been on a general downward trend with the exception of 31 March 2012 where there was a slight increase.
Figure 2: Authorised firearms officers (AFOs), on 31 March 2009 to 31 March 2016, England and Wales
Source: Home Office, ‘Police use of firearms, England and Wales, April 2015 to March 2016 tables’: Table 3.
5.2 AFOs compared with total number of all police officers between 31 March 2009 and 31 March 2016
On 31 March 2016 there were 126,766 police officers4 in England and Wales, representing a decrease of 2.4% when compared with the previous year. The most recent fall in the number of police officers continues the general downward trend seen in the last seven years (a fall of 13.1% from 145,948 officers on 31 March 2009). In line with the overall trend of the total number of all police officers, the number of AFOs has also shown an overall decrease since 31 March 2009, falling by 18.3% to 5,639 AFOs over the same period.
On 31 March 2016, 4.4% of all police officers were AFOs. The proportion of AFOs as a percentage of all police officers has been slightly lower in the last four years (ranging from 4.3% to 4.6%) compared to the preceding four years (ranging from 4.7% to 4.9%).
Table 3: The number of authorised firearms officers as a proportion of all police officers in England and Wales, on 31 March 2009 to 31 March 2016
|Police officers (headcount)||AFOs (headcount)||AFOs as a proportion of all police officers|
|Change from March 2015||-3,113||-8|
|% change from March 2015||-2.4%||-0.1%|
|Change from March 2009||-19,182||-1,267|
|% change from March 2009||-13.1%||-18.3%|
Headcount figures (and not full-time equivalents, FTEs) have been used.
British Transport Police figures have been excluded from the police officer headcount.
The ‘Police use of firearms’ release is an Official Statistics output produced to the highest professional standards and free from political interference. It has been produced by statisticians working in the Chief Statistician’s Unit in accordance with the Home Office’s ‘Statement of compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics’ which covers our policy on revisions and other matters. The Chief Statistician, as Head of Profession, reports to the National Statistician with respect to all professional statistical matters and oversees all Home Office National Statistics products with respect to the Code, being responsible for their timing, content and methodology.
An operation for which the issue of firearms was authorised. ↩
An authorised firearms officer is a police officer who has been selected, trained, accredited and authorised by their chief officer to carry and use a firearm. ↩