THERE were more police operations involving firearms in Gloucestershire last year, new figures show.

Figures from the Home Office show armed police officers were deployed 171 times by Gloucestershire Constabulary in the year to March.

This was an increase of 12% from the year before, when there were 153 firearms operations.

Commenting on the figures, a spokesperson for Gloucestershire police said: "We expected to see increases in this year’s figures compared to last year due to the restrictions placed on all of us during the Covid-19 pandemic and the strict lockdowns.

"The safety of the public is our top priority. In order to achieve this, it is sometimes necessary to deploy armed officers.

"Every incident which requires an armed response is always carefully assessed and managed to ensure the safety of the public and our officers and staff during such incidents.

"In most cases, their mere presence serves as a proportionate deterrent and de-escalator in dangerous situations.

"Gloucestershire remains one of the safest places to live, work and visit, and the number of incidents in which we deploy armed officers remains relatively low."

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.