It’s not that unusual to see police officers out and about on our streets every day, as they patrol our communities and respond to emergencies from car crashes to robberies.

However, it’s not very often we come across armed police officers.

Firearm units throughout the UK vary depending on designation, organisation and equipment, as each constabulary has its own budget which is set by its Police Commissioner.

“Depending on constabulary, police firearms units may be called the Tactical Firearms Unit, Firearms Support Unit, Specialist Armed Response Unit or Tactical Aid Group, among other names,” writes Elite UK Forces.

Darlington and Stockton Times: This is how many police are armed in the UKThis is how many police are armed in the UK (Image: Peter Byrne/PA)

When are armed police officers used?

There are certain situations in the UK when armed police officers are deployed, including when a person is either in possession of a firearm or another weapon.

The Independent adds: “A police firearms operation is the authorised deployment of armed officers where they may have to protect themselves or others from a person who is either in possession of a firearm or other weapon, has immediate access to a firearm or weapon, or is otherwise so dangerous that the officer’s use of a firearm may be necessary.”

How many police officers are armed in the UK?

In England and Wales alone, recent statistics show there were 6,038 police officers licensed to carry firearms as of 2022/23, reports Statista.

This is compared to 6,976 police officers who were licensed to carry firearms in 2009/10.

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As of the year ending March 31, 2023, there were 18,398 firearms operations, which was “slightly higher” than the previous year’s count in 2022 (18,257), reports The Independent.

Additionally, a “consistent trend” showed there was a “widespread” use of armed response vehicles (ARVs).

The data showed they were deployed in 92% of the recorded firearms operations noted above.

The Independent explained: “The number has remained constant over the past few years, highlighting the integral role ARVs play in police operations.”