Police firearm use by country
The use of firearms by police forces varies widely across the world, in part due to differences in gun use policy, civilian firearm laws, and recording of police activity. Police may require that officers use warning shots before aiming on-target, officers may need to make verbal warnings before using their firearms, and officers may be prohibited from carrying weapons while performing tasks such as highway patrol where gun use is not expected.
Unarmed police forcesEdit
In nineteen countries, the police do not carry firearms unless the situation is expected to merit it: Botswana, Cook Islands, Fiji, Iceland, Ireland, Kiribati, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Norway, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland excepted), Vanuatu, U.S. Virgin Islands. These countries exhibit gun-homicide rates markedly lower on average than countries with armed police forces. Their police forces commonly adopt a philosophy of policing by consent.
A survey conducted in Great Britain in 2004 found that 47% of citizens supported arming all police while 48% were opposed to the idea.
The Australian police forces are monitored by the Australian Institute of Criminology, which has recorded police shooting deaths since 1989. Police in Australia routinely wear firearms which are personally issued to them. All fatal police shootings are subject to a mandatory coronial inquest. A 2013 review by the Australian Institute of Criminology found that 42% of victims of fatal police shootings had a mental illness. A more recent history of deaths by police shootings is tabulated below.
|Rounds targeted at people||-||-||-||-||-||-||9||6||6||7||4||4|
- 1.^ 10 injuries, severity not specified.
Data reported on by Heute
Since 1965 all Danish police officers have carried a police pistol when performing their duties. Danish police used Walther PPK 7.65 mm as the standard pistol until 2000, and then the Heckler & Koch USP 9 mm was introduced. In 2008 police began to carry pepper spray in addition to their firearm.
The appropriate use of firearms is described in the Act on Police Activities regulations, section 16 and 17 is translated into English in.
16. (1) The police may use force only if necessary and justified and only by such means and to such extent as are reasonable relative to the interest which the police seek to protect. Any assessment of the justifiability of such force must also take into account whether the use of force involves any risk of bodily harm to third parties.
(2) Force must be used as considerately as possible under the circumstances and so as to minimise any bodily harm.
17. (1) Firearms may only be used: (i) to avert an on-going or imminent dangerous assault on a person; (ii) to avert other imminent danger to the lives of persons or of such persons incurring grievous bodily harm […] (iv) to secure the apprehension of persons who have or are suspected on reasonable grounds of having commenced or committed a dangerous assault on another person unless the risk that such persons will commit another such assault is deemed not to exist;
(2) Before the police fire shots involving a risk of harm to a person, the person must be informed in so far as possible, first by shouted warnings and then by warning shots, that the police intend to fire if police orders are not observed. It must also be ensured, in so far as possible, that the person is able to observe the order.
(3) In case of an obvious risk of hitting third parties, shots may only be fired as a last resort […]
(5) If police shooting has caused harm to a person, the person must immediately be examined by a doctor.
In Denmark the police use of weapons is recorded by the police department. The police department classifies tear gas as the use of a firearm. In 2006 the death of four people by police shootings prompted an investigation into the use of firearms by the Danish police force from 1996 to 2006. The investigation found no significant trends of increased firearms use by the police.
|Cases of firearm use||222||276||196||216||234||242||269||305||269||243||253|
|Reports of shots fired1||15||18||7||10||11||22||17||10||18||15||20|
|Reports of shots aimed at civilians2||7||7||4||5||3||12||7||3||4||2||11|
More recent figures have been published separately in a different format.
|Cases of firearm use||361||305||277||260||323||315|
Police in Finland have access to weapons including a Glock 17, Heckler & Koch MP5, Taser and pepper spray. The use of firearms is recorded by the Police College and the Finnish ministry of the Interior.
|Incidents firearms were used||39||26||36||27||41||44||32||40||34||39||27|
|Firearm was threatened||31||23||25||20||28||39||30||32||24||33||19|
Data reported on by YLE uutiset
In France the police are regularly armed, however, there is no official record of how frequently firearms are used. An independent group A Toutes Les Victimes has tracked the number of deaths and injuries by police which have been published in the media since 2005.
|Number of deaths1||6||10||19||11||6||9||10||14|
|Number of injuries1||3||7||2||7||5||4||0||4|
|Rounds discharged for people||106||115||104||100||133||101|
|Rounds which missed people||10||30||14||17||22||13|
|Rounds which hit people||37||36||36||42||46||40|
Icelandic police do not regularly carry firearms. In 2013 the first fatal police shooting took place where one man was killed. As of October 2019 this remains the only fatal police shooting since Iceland became an independent republic in 1944.
The strength of the Garda Síochána (national police) is approximately 15,000 officers, of which approximately 4,000 are licensed to carry firearms. The rest are unarmed.
The majority of armed Gardai (officers) consist of ordinary detectives (routinely armed with handguns for personal protection) or belong to specialist regional Armed Support Units. An elite national Emergency Response Unit exists that is trained in hostage rescue tactics.
Fatal shootings by Gardai are rare and individual statistics for same are not published.
The Jamaica Constabulary Force's (JCF) use of lethal force has been monitored by Amnesty International. From 1983 to 2000 the Jamaican police force has been reported to kill between 121 and 355 people each year with an average of 171 deaths. A subsequent report by Amnesty USA shows that from 1998 to 2015 between 101 and 307 people were killed each year with an average of 192 deaths. In 2010, the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) was established as an independent oversight body to tackle the frequent use of lethal force by members of the Security Forces. which has made progress towards reducing the problem. A summary of recent years, is tabulated below:
Uniformed officers carry sidearms, typically the New Nambu M60 revolver while on duty only. Security Police and Special Assault Team carry semi-automatic pistols and heavier submachine guns and rifles depending on the situation.
Law enforcement in the Netherlands regularly carry firearms, in every incident where a firearm round is shot and/or hits a person there is an investigation conducted to determine if the use of a firearm was justified. The results of the investigations are made publicly available, the cases for each year are tabulated.
|Number of incidents||30||33||33||24||30||25||23||34||23||27||16||22|
The New Zealand Police do not routinely carry sidearms. Under normal circumstances, police in New Zealand carry pepper spray, batons, and Tasers, though all are trained with the Glock 17 pistol and Bushmaster M4 semi-automatic rifle. These firearms are carried in all frontline police vehicles and are available for use should a situation require it. There are times when due to a credible threat, New Zealand's 12 district police commanders have the authority to arm all of their frontline officers. After the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings all frontline police officers throughout the country were instructed by the Police Commissioner to carry guns while on duty.
In October 2019, New Zealand's Police Commissioner announced a six-month trial of Armed Response Teams (ARTs) in three Police districts. The ARTs are specialist armed police personnel who are part of the Armed Offenders Squad. The teams are a minimum of three, in specialised vehicles equipped with tactical options and operate seven days a week.
When force is used (excluding handcuffs) a tactical operations report is filed. Use of tactical options is published by the police force.
A summary of tactical options used in 2010–2014 was published in 2015. In 33,198 events over the four-year period, firearms were drawn 1,422 times, resulting in 5 injuries. Tactical operations resulting in fatalities are not recorded in the database.
Since 1916, New Zealand Police have used lethal force 40 times.
The Norwegian Police Service (NPS) formerly only carried firearms in response to specific situations, keeping their Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns and Heckler & Koch P30 pistols locked in the patrol cars. In early 2019, the NPS started implementing permanent armed carry on officers. The use of firearms is recorded by the police department which publishes detailed statistics on the annual use of firearms. The information presented in the 2014 report is detailed in the table below.
|Firearm use threatened||70||72||67||52||75||65||55||58||75||66||58||58||42|
|Incidents of armed police||-||-||-||2666||-||-||2170||2358||-||2711||-||-||2954|
Generally, all law enforcement officers in the Russian Federation are armed with pistols at a minimum. There is no consistent recording of firearms use across the country. The Russian police forces routinely carry weapons.
Use of firearms can only be lawful where it is necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life. Since 2011 the Investigative Committee, responsible for the investigation of alleged unlawful use of police force.
The South African Police Service is monitored by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) which releases an annual report on the performance indicators of police activity. The IPID publishes deaths as a results of police action and deaths in police custody. Use of firearms forms the majority of the killings by police; shootings by police are all classified under deaths as a result of police action.
|Firearm related incidents of death1||342||317||322||299||-||-||-|
|Firearm related deaths1||-||336||-||-||-||-||-|
|Total incidents of death as a result of police action||431||390||396||366||394||436||387|
|Total deaths as a result of police action||485||409||423||400||467||558||440|
- 1^ Includes all categories of deaths as a result of police action with labels "Shot with service firearm", "Shot with police firearm" and "Negligent handling of a firearm leading to death". Excludes suicides.
The Swedish Police Authority always carry firearms when on public duty. The standard weapon issued to officers is the SIG Sauer P226. The police authority report that normally police will threaten to use their weapon but do not discharge it, this happens about 200 times per year. In a typical year the police shoot 20 warning shots aimed at people or vehicles. An investigation reviewing the use of weapons by police details the firearm use from 2003 to 2014.
|Incidents involving shots for effect||11||16||9||8||10||20||11||13||29||17||13||25|
|Incidents involving warning shots||9||15||9||3||12||16||11||8||32||14||16||14|
Only the most serious use of violence is counted, if an incident involves both warning shots and shots for effect it is only counted in the shots for effect section.
Police forces in the United Kingdom are managed by different bodies and thus have different standards for firearms usage. Police in Northern Ireland regularly carry firearms whereas the police in Great Britain do not.
England and WalesEdit
The police force in England and Wales do not routinely carry firearms, a 2006 poll of 47,328 members of the Police Federation of England and Wales found that 82% do not want officers to be routinely armed while on duty. The UK Home Office reports annual statistics on the use of firearms by police forces. The use of firearms is recorded by the police department which publishes detailed statistics on the annual use of firearms dating back to 2003. One report published figures for 2003–2013, later years are published individually. While the Home Office monitors the use of police equipment the Independent Police Complaints Commission monitored the fatalities of people due to police contact up to 2016.
|Operations involving armed police1||16,657||15,981||18,891||18,005||19,595||16,456||14,218||13,496||12,550||10,996||14,939||14,685||14,753|
|Operations involving armed response vehicles1||13,218||13,137||14,355||14,527||14,972||19,928||17,068||16,774||14,261||13,116||12,135||12,287||12,471|
|Authorised firearms officers1||6,096||6,243||6,584||6,728||6,780||6,906||6,979||6,653||6,756||6,091||5,864||5,647||5,639|
|Incidents where firearms were discharged1||4||5||9||3||7||5||6||4||5||3||4||6||7|
|Incidents of fatalities2||-||3||5||1||4||3||2||2||2||0||0||1||3|
- 1.^ Data provided by the UK Home Office.
- 2.^ Data provided by the Independent Police Complaints Commission
In 2017 the Independent Police Complaints Commission was replaced with the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). The IOPC publishes the use of firearms in a different format. Reported figures on fatal shootings by police are tabled below.
|Operations involving armed police1||15,783||18,781||20,186|
|Operations involving armed response vehicles1||13,188||15,838||17,742|
|Authorised firearms officers1||6,278||6,459||6,653|
|Incidents where firearms were discharged1||6||8||13|
|Fatal shootings by police2||6||2||3|
- 1.^ Data provided by the UK Home Office.
- 2.^ Data provided by the Independent Office for Police Conduct
The Police Service of Northern Ireland publish an annual report on the police use of force which lists the frequency that firearms were drawn and fired. However, this report does not list the injuries or deaths resulting from firearms use.
|Firearm drawn or pointed||302||360||364||419||265||358||431||499||520|
Data published by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
The Police Investigation & Review Commissioner publishes an annual report on assessments of complaints and investigations carried out.
|Assessments of police firearms incidents1||21||41||46||66|
|Investigations of serious injuries following police contact2||3||5||8||13|
|Investigations of deaths following police contact2||12||19||4||11|
- 1.^ Conventional firearms only.
- 2.^ Deaths and injuries arising from firearms and other police contact.
Data published by the Police Investigation & Review Commissioner.
Generally, all law enforcement officers in the United States are armed with semi-automatic pistols at a minimum. There is no consistent recording of firearms use across all states, some bodies such as the New York Police Department (NYPD) report on firearms discharge. In 2015 NYPD reported a record low of eight deaths as well as fifteen injuries caused by police firearms discharge.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation publish the number of “justified” homicides by law enforcement.
In response to the lack of published data, the organization Campaign Zero launched Mapping Police Violence to collect comprehensive data on people killed by police in the United States. Similarly, the British newspaper The Guardian launched "The Counted" - a program to record the number of fatal police shootings throughout the United States. The Guardian reports that 1,146 people were killed in 2015 and 1,093 people in 2016.
|Number of deaths2||-||-||-||-||-||1,146||1,093||-||-|
|Number of deaths3||-||-||-||-||-||995||963||987||998|
|Number of deaths4||-||-||-||1,079||1,131||1,187||1,129||1,146||1,165|
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While the 19 nations in the world that do not arm officers vary greatly in their approach to policing, they share a common thread. “What we can identify in these countries is that people have a tradition—and an expectation—that officers will police by consent rather than with the threat of force,” says Guðmundur Ævar Oddsson, associate professor of sociology at Iceland’s University of Akureyri who specializes in class inequality and forms of social control such as policing.
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