Police officers in West Yorkshire fired their guns on just seven occasions last year and used the weapons exclusively for the “humane destruction” of dangerous animals, new figures have revealed.
A report into West Yorkshire Police’s use of firearms and its efforts to tackle the threat of guns reveals that the number of guns fired around the county fell to 21 last year, a total described by the force as an “unprecedented” low.
The total for 2014/15 is less than half that seen in 2011/12 and the lowest in the eight years included in analysis by Yorkshire’s biggest police force.
According to its report: “Our persistent focus upon and deployment of effective tactics over the past three years has driven down the numbers of discharges to unprecedented levels.
“The improvement in Bradford is particularly encouraging, and whilst every discharge is ‘one too many’, in a county of nearly 2.5 million residents, only 21 firearms discharges over the previous 12 months is a very positive outcome in keeping people safe.”
Of the 21 firearms discharges in 2014/15, four were in Bradford district, eight in Leeds district, and four in Kirklees district. There were 26 in 2013/14 and 39 in 2012/13, with the majority of incidents coming from Bradford districts in both years.
The force’s 131 officers who are authorised to use firearms are split into armed response vehicles (ARVs), whose officers are in uniform, and plain-clothes specialist firearms officers (SFOs).
Together, the armed officers were involved in 332 spontaneous incidents across the region in 2014/15 and 216 planned operations, with 548 arrests made as a result.
Its report said that in 2014/15 West Yorkshire Police officers discharged their guns on seven occasions.
It added: “All of [these] related to the humane destruction of an animal posing a risk to the public – in the main these are dangerous dogs and livestock lose on a highway.”
The report, titled ‘How West Yorkshire Police is tackling the firearms threat’, said the county had 14,000 authorised firearms certificates held by a total of 11,500 people.
In the year to May, 65 firearms certificates held by residents of West Yorkshire were revoked by the force and 22 applications refused on the grounds of public safety.
The report’s authors said the county has “some of the UK’s larger metropolitan centres with significant domiciled Organised Crime Groups who have access to and use firearms as part of their criminal business - in particular the districts of Leeds, Bradford and Kirklees.”
It added: “Their use of firearms is commonly to protect drugs, cash and other criminal assets by utilising the weapons to threaten or shoot rival parties and to settle disputes.”
The report was discussed at a meeting between temporary chief constable Dee Collins and police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson earlier this month.
It said: “This is an area of work which has been rarely publicised, in part due to the sensitivity of techniques deployed by the force and a wish to avoid organised criminals being alerted to them and thus escaping being brought to justice.
“However we also recognise the importance of the public understanding the diligent work being performed by our officers to keep them safe.
“Therefore this report seeks to provide a more detailed picture than previously and is published in a format that can go into the public domain and be shared with community leaders and partners.”