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Personally, I have huge respect for the British police.
In my cop days, I would occasionally hear one of my American police colleagues denigrating the British police, as they believed you couldn’t be a real cop without a gun. The gun made them feel powerful and sometimes overconfident of their abilities. They saw themselves as having superior training to British police.
They ignored (or were ignorant of) the duration and content of British police training. The British police don’t spend a lot of time training in emergency vehicle operations and no time in firearms training in their basic course. This is because new constables drive low-powered vehicles (if they drive at all), and do not handle or carry firearms. They spend considerably longer in their basic “police college” course, the extra time being focused on public order (riot) training, community relations, and interpersonal conflict management.
One of the aspects of the public order training that gets the attention of most American cops is the way they are taught to handle very violent crowds that may be armed with heavy thrown objects and fire bombs/Molotov cocktails. During their practice scenarios, instructors (senior constables) throw half-bricks and real gasoline bombs at the trainees. The trainees are taught how to deflect these weapons to avoid or minimize injury. When an American cop talks about how tough his training academy was, it usually takes them down a peg to ask, “At any point during your academy, did they try to set you on fire?”
When the British police do conduct specific training in emergency vehicle operations and firearms, the training they provide and maintain is superior to almost anything in American policing. American cops spend the equivalent of maybe a week (often less) in emergency vehicle operations and maybe ten days in firearms training during the basic academy. In many cases, they will never get any driving- or firearms-specific training again over their entire careers.
A British officer aspiring to become firearms-authorized must first spend several years as a line constable and accumulate an exemplary performance record. Then, they attend a week-long orientation that determines only if they have the aptitude to become firearms-authorized. If they pass that, they are assigned to a firearms course that is about a month long [Edit: Thanks to Adey Hill, I now know the course is closer to two months long] . If they succeed in that and are assigned to a firearms role, they will usually carry the firearms in a locked compartment in their patrol vehicle, and will arm up only when directed by a superior officer. Once fully authorized, they will return for refresher/qualification training one day a month, and attend a more comprehensive course for one or two weeks every year.
A newly-authorized British firearms officer has more firearms training than the typical American police officer gets over his entire career, and the British cop doesn’t carry his firearms at all times while on duty, and he certainly doesn’t take them home with him and carry them when off duty.
American policing was based on the British model, but we could still take some cues from them. I believe they train their police better and demand greater accountability from them.
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