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Gun info request 'will cost too much' for cops

By Donna MacAllister

Police Scotland have so far refused to answer FOI question on cost grounds
Police Scotland have so far refused to answer FOI question on cost grounds

Police Scotland has said it cannot reveal how many routine incidents were attended by armed officers in the Highland, because it would cost too much to retrieve the information.

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests were made to the force but the organisation used an exemption on the cost of finding out the information as reason for refusing to provide it.

Highland Labour MSP David Stewart said the knockback may raise suspicions police “have something to hide”.

But Police Scotland said it would be too expensive in terms of clerical manpower to extract the figures from their information systems.

The organisation’s decision to arm 275 officers was a fundamental change in the nature of the country’s policing.

Previously, guns were kept locked in the boot and armed response officers kitted up before attending an incident where someone’s life was deemed to be in danger.

A public outcry to the change led to a climbdown last October when the force pledged only to send gun-carrying officers to firearms incidents or those where there was a “threat to life”.

But they are also expected to deal with crimes and offences which they come across while on patrol.

The ‘Strathy’ tried to ascertain how many “threat to life” and “firearms incidents” police officers responded to in the Highlands since October and how many crimes and offences armed police came across while on patrol.

But Police Scotland provided a three-page response in which it refused to give the information requested.

It stated: “I regret to advise you that I am unable to provide you with the information as it would prove too costly to do so within the context of the fee regulations.

“The current cost threshold is £600 and I estimate that it would cost well in excess of this amount to process your request.”

Their response continued: “The armed response vehicle (ARV) officer will perform numerous policing tasks throughout a normal working day and these will almost always include contact with members of the public, however not all of these engagements with the public are recorded.

“An ARV officer may well encounter an incident during the course of their patrols which requires them to engage with the public and which may be resolved using their discretion by way of assistance being provided.

“Furthermore, an ARV officer may ‘come across’ an incident whilst on patrol, which is ultimately dealt with by divisional officers and therefore would not be recorded by the Armed Policing Unit.”

The response also said Police Scotland’s computerised crime recording system was incapable “at present” of retrieving statistics showing how many “firearms incidents” and “threat to life incidents” police officers dealt with in the region since last October.

In a written statement to the press, the north’s divisional commander, Chief Superintendent Julian Innes, commented: “I remain convinced that there is an ongoing operational requirement to have specialist firearms officers readily deployable to help us keep our local communities safe.

“The support they provide to division is very professional and first class.”

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