Police representatives have celebrated the opening of the Museum of Armed Policing. Once the news got out, though, the public’s reaction wasn’t quite so warm.
The consequences of carrying weapons… but only for the public
The Museum of Armed Policing, based in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire, had its grand opening on 17 November with the cutting of a police line:
— MAP (@museumarmpolice) November 17, 2018
In an interview with local paper Fenland Citizen, founder Mark Williams said:
This is not about glorifying guns, or armed police, we tell the whole story, we want people to understand the history behind where we are today.
Williams is also CEO of the Police Firearms Officers Association (PFOA). The museum is a project by PFOA, which the association said aims to “inform and educate on all aspects of armed policing in the UK”. Meanwhile, the BBC reported that a spokesman said its aim is to warn “young people about the consequences of carrying weapons”.
A PFOA description of the museum from February said it would have different “zones”, including:
- Police firearms going back to the 1800s.
- Royal Ulster Constabulary / Police Service of Northern Ireland.
- Incidents that have impacted armed policing.
- Less lethal technology.
The museum has been welcomed by police representatives across the country:
Looking forward to visiting on Saturday👍🏼
— Simon Chesterman (@ChestermanSimon) November 14, 2018
Honoured to have been invited to the opening of @museumarmpolice today & to support it with @cambsfederation. Excellent facility which will be so educational. It’s been alot of work but Well done to Mark, Debs & all @pfoa_uk for making it happen. pic.twitter.com/Uxpzf64GHt
— Emma Carter (@olivere16) November 17, 2018
Very proud to be attending the official opening of the @museumarmpolice with @PFEW_Che today. I know it’s been a labour of love for those involved in its creation, will be an honour to be there at its opening. pic.twitter.com/X49IuIVvyQ
— John Apter (@PFEW_Chair) November 17, 2018
Some brilliant work from the @pfoa_uk – we had the privilege of a sneak preview last month before the project was complete. It’s great to see the vision become a reality after years of hard work by the team. Well worth a visit. https://t.co/gHGfZvko5z
— Derbyshire Armed Response Unit (@DerbyshireARU) November 18, 2018
This will be an excellent facility for education and pretty exciting to have it based locally in Cambs. Hoping @CambsCops officers will get to pop in for a visit too as lots of interest. @museumarmpolice https://t.co/2jIEnVMvnE
— Liz Groom (@cambsfederation) November 9, 2018
Not everyone was pleased about the news though. Some questioned if the museum would reveal the whole history of armed policing:
Apparently the UK now has a Museum of Armed Policing. Does it have a "Jean Charles de Menezes botched operation" exhibit? 🤔 https://t.co/foLPfygCvv
— Netpol (@policemonitor) November 17, 2018
Any mention of Mark Duggan or Jean Charles de Menezes in this celebration of armed policing?
Or are we expected to gloss over extra judicial police murders?
— Helen Pender (@quiscustodis) November 17, 2018
Does it have an 'RUC collusion with paramilitaries' exhibit?
— David Flood (@david_flood) November 18, 2018
The Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) also suggested the museum’s stated aim may not be exactly on point:
This BBC report doesn't mention any of the innocent people the police have shot and killed, so we're assuming the museum is more "PR exercise" than "academic institution"https://t.co/a67JQ11ZJS
— Netpol (@policemonitor) November 18, 2018
While others summed their reaction up in just a couple of words:
— november name limbo (@AdorableCalums) November 17, 2018
— #FBPE is racist (@marihatescops) November 17, 2018
Armed policing is on the increase. In July, a Guardian article said operations were up 19%, to 18,746, across England and Wales in 2017/18. Simon Chesterman, lead on armed policing for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, blamed international terrorism and increased violent crime for the rise. Chesterman has also floated the idea of routinely arming officers on the street.
But high-profile armed incidents by police across the country makes routinely arming them a worrying prospect. The killings of Anthony Grainger, Mark Duggan, Jean Charles de Menezes and Azelle Rodney were mired in criticism, for example. Meanwhile, there have also been notable errors with tasers. These include Avon and Somerset Police tasering its own race relations adviser as well as a man with autism, and Sussex Police tasering a disabled father and son.
As a result, it’s not hard to see why a ‘museum’ for police with guns disgusts some people. The number of people shot and killed by police in England and Wales is lower than some other countries. But routine arming isn’t going to decrease that figure. We must confront any attempt to make this idea more acceptable to the public.
– Read more about police at The Canary.
Featured image via Tony Hisgett/Flickr
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