The recent deaths of two officers in Manchester have re-ignited debate over increasing the number of armed police.
In early September, Thames Valley’s Chief Constable Sarah Thornton directed a working group be set up to consider whether more officers should be equipped with tasers, which are currently only used by armed response units.
This is after officers’ concerns as well as fears over a rising number of assaults on police since 2007.
The chief has asked for a report to be compiled by December, complete with recommendations.
She said: “Clearly the deaths of two officers in Manchester was a terrible event and it is fair to say it has been a shock to the whole police service.
“It has re-ignited the debate around whether police should be routinely armed in this country. I believe one of the current strengths is that the majority of our policing is done by unarmed officers and most police officers would agree with this.”
This news comes from a speech given by Sarah Thornton, in which she discussed a range of issues including the latest crime figures and force funding.
Last year, the force received 290,000 999 calls and 1.3 million non-emergency calls.
A total of 158,000 crimes were recorded, of which 38,000 were detected.
There were 14 murder investigations and 74 fatal road traffic collisions, and officers policed 100 events during the course of the year.
During the Olympics and Paralympics period crime fell by 14% (1,403 offences) in the Thames Valley compared to the previous year. In addition, 999 calls were down 11.5% and non-emergency calls were down 4%.
Thames Valley Police recorded the second biggest drop by any force in England and Wales in recorded crime, from the 12 months leading up to March 2012 compared to the previous 12-month period, according to Home Office statistics.
The chief also reviewed progress on meeting its 2012/13 targets of cutting crimes of most concern to the community.
Violent crimes and burglaries (dwelling) have both fallen, while the detection rates for residential burglary offences are above target.
The detection rate for violence against the person is half a per cent below target, while the rate for serious sexual offences is currently at 25.1%, which is below the target of 30%.
The chief said: “The category of serious sexual offences includes rapes and serious sexual assaults. We have to gather evidence very carefully and we now have sexual assault referral centres set up, so we are much better at doing this. We also work very closely with our colleagues in the Crown Prosecution Service, in the gathering of evidence and preparation of cases.”
Three key reasons were identified as to why the force has been able to achieve significant reductions in crime figures, including co-operation, particularly with local authorities, the identification and focus on key offenders in each local area and a single government focus on cutting crime.
Thames Valley Police is also is on target to meet an estimated £55.5 million savings by 2014/15. The chief said the ‘absolute priority’ has always been to ensure frontline resources are protected, which has been achieved.
One of the money-saving measures is the collaboration agreement with Hampshire Police, which has seen the creation of a joint ICT department, a joint information management unit and a joint operations unit (including the dog section, roads policing, operational planning and from October 2012, the firearms unit).
Other departments being considered under the collaboration agreement are the control room and criminal justice.