More police firearms operations in Devon and CornwallThere were more police operations involving firearms in Devon and Cornwall last year, new figures show.
Figures from the Home Office show armed police officers were deployed 264 times by Devon and Cornwall Police in the year to March.
This was an increase of 28% from the year before, when there were 206 firearms operations.
Across England and Wales, the number of police firearms operations stayed largely the same, with 18,259 in the year to March, and 18,245 the year before.
However, it represented a drop compared to the year leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, when there were 19,393 operations.
Dr Liam O'Shea, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute think tank, said that officers remain unlikely to actually fire their weapons.
“The rate of police officers discharging a firearm remains low, particularly when compared to countries such as the United States.”
Armed officers intentionally fired a weapon just four times nationally last year – and there has been just one year in the last decade where this number reached double figures.
Across the South West, there were 1,331 firearms operations in 2021-22, carried out by 459 weapons-trained officers.
The two largest police forces, the Met and West Midlands, accounted for a third of all operations between them.
Most police operations do not involve the use of firearms, though armed officers are deployed in certain cases such as for incidents involving violent crime or to patrol high-risk areas.
But Liberty, a human rights charity, has raised concerns about the number of firearms operations carried out by English and Welsh police forces.
Emmanuelle Andrews, a policy and campaigns manager at the charity, said: "We agree that use of firearms should be rolled back, but it’s important to remember that they are not the only dangerous weapons in the police’s toolkit.
"Supposedly ‘less lethal’ weapons like TASERs can and do kill – earlier this year, an officer was charged with grievous bodily harm after he shot a young black man, Jordan Walker-Brown, with a TASER, leaving him paralysed from the chest down."
The Government has encouraged police forces to deploy 'less lethal' weapons – which aim to incapacitate suspects, rather than cause long-term harm – as a means of reducing the number of firearms it uses.
Separate Home Office figures show across the two nations there were over 34,000 incidents involving a "conducted energy device", such as a TASER, in the year to March 2021 – including 674 in Devon and Cornwall.
This was an increase of 7% from the year before, and more than double the 17,000 in 2017-18, when data is first available.
Dr O’Shea also cautioned that TASERs could undermine trust in policing if they are not being used responsibly by police forces.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We’re committed to giving the police the resources they need to fight crime.
"That’s why we’ve given policing an additional £1.1bn billion this year and are recruiting 20,000 additional officers across England and Wales."