The increase is largely financed by a £143mil Home Office programme with forces paying for additional officers.
The funding has resulted in an extra 41 Armed Response Vehicles (ARVs) on the road in England and Wales in any given 24 hours, ready to respond rapidly to major incidents including terrorist attacks. They are based in areas considered to be at greatest threat or with geographical challenges.
The plan is to recruit around 1500 extra officers in total by the end of 2018 across the 43 Home Office forces – some of which will be highly specialised in responding to ongoing terrorist incidents.
With armed policing a voluntary role, recruiting, training and retaining officers remains a challenge for all forces.
“We have increased our ability to respond swiftly to serious threats to public safety and work continues to build on these numbers” says the National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Armed Policing, Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman.
“Officers who serve as part of firearms units are volunteering themselves for an immensely difficult and dangerous role that will put them in harm’s way.
“They naturally have concerns about the impact their job could have on their families. They need to know they will be supported in the rare instance that they might discharge their firearm.”
Mr Chesterman also said that the recruitment of counter terrorism specialist firearms officers (CTSFOs) would be extended until the end of 2018. These officers are taken from the ARV ranks and given extra training similar to that of the military.
“We are looking to double the size of the CTSFO team that was built for the Olympics,” Mr Chesterman adds.
“They will be brigaded into hubs around the country. These officers are a potent force that train alongside the military and are fully interoperable.
“They will be deployed to deal with serious organised crime threats as well as terrorism.”
The current increase in firearms officers will take levels back up to over 7000 in Home Office forces, similar to numbers seen at the start of the decade. However, DCC Chesterman stresses that the skills of the officers now being trained is far wider than those who were lost when numbers reduced.
“We now have the capability to deliver much more,” he says. “We also have plans in place to mobilise the non-Home Office forces to give support to a major incident and – if needed – the military.
“We have the ability to move much quicker to resolve situations. Previously the approach was to locate, contain and neutralise. Now it is to locate and confront. Our tactics are more aggressive.”