Manchester police chief opposes officers routinely carrying guns

Ian Hopkins speaks out even though his force’s armed unit was increased by a third after Manchester Arena attack

The chief constable of Greater Manchester police has come out strongly against the routine arming of the police even as his force’s own armed unit increased by a third following last year’s attack on the Manchester Arena.

Ian Hopkins said: “I think it would be a very sad day for the country if we moved to more of a European or American model whereby the police are routinely armed and you become much more a force than a service. I was in America recently and there’s 100 children a day being killed by guns and they don’t seem to be able to solve that by the police being armed.”

Greater Manchester police had its armed policing unit boosted by a third in 2017 as part of a Home Office initiative. Following the suicide attack on Manchester Arena last May, GMP’s specialist operations branch has stepped up its armed presence at high-profile venues and events across Greater Manchester, including in the runup to the anniversary of the attack next Tuesday.

Hopkins, however, was clear he did not want ordinary officers to carry guns. “I am not for the routine arming of policing because the model of policing we have in this country is based on consent and we police with the consent of the people we serve,” he said. “The community are as much a part of policing as the police are part of the community.”

He was talking to journalists one year on from the worst terror attack on UK soil since the 7/7 tube bombings in 2005. The atrocity is to be marked with a church service attended by Theresa May and the Duke of Cambridge, followed by a mass singalong in Manchester’s Albert Square. Ten thousand people are expected to join together to sing tracks from Ariana Grande, Take That, Elbow and Oasis, whose Don’t Look Back In Anger became an anthem of defiance after the attack. Both events will be patrolled by large numbers of armed officers.

Hopkins, who has been the head of the GMP since 2015, said he has shed tears after meeting the loved ones of the victims, many of them children.

He said: “Oh, yes, absolutely. You know, in moments of quietness. Particularly because I made the offer, within a day or so, to meet any of the families of those that died that wanted to see me and I’ve seen well over half the families.

“And they are very courageous people on an incredible journey that maybe they will never recover from, I don’t know, time helps heal, but you don’t get over losing a loved one, particularly in those circumstances.

“It was about hearing their hopes and aspirations that they had for their loved ones and those being torn away, brutally torn away, that was one of the most difficult periods, yes.”

Hopkins praised the officer on duty when the bomb went off, who overruled national protocol and allowed officers to stay inside the arena helping victims when it was unclear if there were gunmen on the loose or a second explosion was imminent. “It was a hugely courageous decision,” said Hopkins, noting that the protocols were being revised as a result of the officer’s actions.

But he said it was unlikely officers would have withdrawn, even if ordered to do so: “There was families in there, there were people who work at the arena, railway workers. It would have been inconceivable to pull out officers who were helping the dying and injured.”

No one has yet been brought to justice for the attack, which left 22 people dead, including many children. Last October, the UK made a request to the Libyan authorities to extradite Hasham Abedi, the younger brother of the bomber.

Hopkins eagerly awaits Hashem’s return to the UK to face trial. He said investigators had gathered 16 terabytes of digital communications which helped persuade the Crown Prosecution Service that there was enough evidence to charge Hashem with the murder of 22 people, the attempted murder of others who were injured and conspiracy to cause an explosion.

He said the public should accept some “give and take” around police and the security services accessing their digital communications to foil future attacks.

“I think there’s a big debate to be had with the public around the security of your own personal information and where that meets the necessity for a state to keep people safe. There probably needs to be some give and take over that. I think most members of the public would expect people to be sharing material when it comes to the security of our country,” he said.


Helen Pidd North of England editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Burnham: poor leadership left Manchester emergency crews unready for attack
Greater Manchester mayor says report into 2017 atrocity raises serious questions for whole of UK

Mark Brown North of England correspondent

04, Nov, 2022 @3:16 PM

Article image
Salman Abedi was unknown to Prevent workers, says police chief
In interview, Manchester chief constable describes hope of building prosecution case against some of those in custody

Frances Perraudin North of England reporter

30, May, 2017 @5:26 PM

Article image
UK venues could face legal duty to provide protection from terrorism
Home Office to consult on plan affecting owners of concert halls and shopping centres

Jamie Grierson Home affairs correspondent

24, Feb, 2020 @12:01 AM

Article image
Emergency services rules too inflexible, says Manchester’s mayor
Andy Burnham calls for common sense to prevail after firefighters were barred from arena site

Helen Pidd North of England editor

27, Mar, 2018 @5:21 PM

Article image
Police resume search for Manchester Arena attacker's suitcase
Officers return to rubbish tip on outskirts of city in search for Salman Abedi’s blue case

Helen Pidd North of England editor

11, Jun, 2018 @4:05 PM

Article image
Police and MI5 missed chances to prevent Manchester bombing, MPs find
Committee finds series of failings in handling of case of bomber Salman Abedi

Jamie Grierson Home affairs correspondent

22, Nov, 2018 @1:14 PM

Article image
Police to bolster venue security nationwide after Manchester attack
Humberside, Metropolitan and South Wales police among forces to announce tighter measures after suicide blast

Damien Gayle

23, May, 2017 @5:57 PM

Article image
UK police chiefs discuss officers routinely carrying guns
Arming PCs remains option in light of terror threats, with shortage of specialist police

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

16, May, 2018 @11:01 PM

Article image
Manchester police warned in 2016 over terrorism strategy, arena inquiry hears
Inspectorate found majority of force duty officers ‘felt ill-equipped’ to deal with terror incident

Sasha Mistlin

08, Feb, 2021 @8:14 PM

Article image
UK police stop passing Manchester bombing information to US over leaks
Officers investigating Manchester Arena bombing take decision as transatlantic row over leaks escalates

Vikram Dodd, Ewen MacAskill, Rowena Mason and Jessica Elgot

25, May, 2017 @12:49 PM