UPSI's Dr Tim Brain, former chief constable, says he is 'at a loss' to explain why the use of firearms was authorised so many times
Police forces in Wales have had an unprecedented surge in operations involving armed officers, latest official figures have shown.
In 2011/12 firearms officers were called out 1074 times, nearly double the 606 carried out in 2002/3.
Home Office data reveal that Dyfed-Powys, with one of Britain’s lowest crime rates, has more firearms officers per 10,000 people than almost any other police force in Britain, including Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Essex.
The number of firearms officers in Dyfed-Powys, 79, has risen by more than a quarter (27%) since 2002/3.
In Gwent the number of firearms operations increased from 37 in 2002/03 to 197 in 2011/12.
In South Wales there were 281 incidents in which firearms were authorised in 2002/03.
The figure rose to 597 in 2010/11 but dropped to 399 a year later.
Former chief constable and leading academic Dr Timothy Brain described figures for Dyfed-Powys in particular as a “phenomenon.”
The former chief constable of Gloucestershire Police, who now works at the Universities Police Science Institute, based at Cardiff University, said: “I’m at a loss to explain why Dyfed-Powys authorised firearms 29 times in 2002 and 292 in 2012.
“The Gwent and Dyfed Powys figures in particular are a phenomenon, so much so that my first instinct was that a mistake had been made.”
In 2012 Dyfed-Powys, Gwent and South Wales Police launched a joint firearms training unit based in Bridgend.
The hub provides firearms training to command, specialists and armed response vehicle officers from the three forces.
A spokesman for the Joint Firearms Unit said: “Since its establishment all three forces now have access to a larger and more resilient pool of firearms experts, a single centre of excellence, and the best training facilities available.”
Dyfed-Powys Police said the number of officers supplied from each force to the Joint Firearms Unit is determined through a “Strategic Threat and Risk Assessment for Firearms”.
A spokesman for the force added: “The main reason for the increase in numbers in Dyfed-Powys over recent years is additional funding that has been granted to provide protection to the Critical National Infrastructure sites in Pembrokeshire.”
Dr Timothy Brain said: “In general there has been an increasing trend of police taser in recent years.
“It is a fact that many violent crimes are often resolved by police officers simply pointing the red dot of their taser site on their suspect.
“It is therefore understandable that police officers are using more and more of these weapons.”
Dr Brain said it was likely that firearms teams are being deployed for similar reasons.
He added: “Firearms teams are generally used as a safety response.
“While firearms incidents may be increasing there is no suggestion that more weapons are being fired.
“Officers know they can resolve a dangerous situation by deploying firearms officers, they know that it is in the interest of safety.”