I found a force, which I think is up to the task This was the opinion of British Foreign and Commonwealth Office police advisor, Chris Burgess, on the competence and procedures with firearms of the Royal Falkland Islands Police.
Speaking to Corina Goss of the Falkland Islands Broadcasting Station on Tuesday, Mr.Burgess said that he had found in the Falklands a small force, but one which was very dedicated and very professional in terms of its firearms capabilities. He continued,
"What you have got is a force that can respond, albeit on a small scale. I would say that they are probably as good as one is likely to get, given their numbers; they've got very good equipment and they've got other equipment on order, ballistic protection type equipment, but obviously not weapons, because they are very well equipped in that regard."
Mr.Burgess was making his first tour of the British Overseas Territories in the South Atlantic Islands. He had started in St.Helena, and visited Ascension Island before arriving in the Falklands, where he had spent a week with the RFIP. Later in the year, he hopes to be able to visit Tristan da Cunha.
During his tours of inspection, which had previously taken in other British Overseas Territories, mainly in the Caribbean, Mr.Burgess said that he was looking at and reporting on the ability of civilian police to respond correctly to firearms incidents.
Mr.Burgess's method of assessment involves visiting police forces to talk to as many people as possible of all ranks, but especially firearms trainers, chiefs of police and authorised firearms officers. Besides looking at their equipment, he is also keen to observe their standing orders in relation to firearms, their weaponry and their training. In addition he is interested in their back-up in terms of such factors as first aid training, the availability of para-medical assistance, communications and transport.
Commenting with regard to the South Atlantic, those incidents involving firearms were "thankfully few", Mr.Burgess said that nevertheless it was essential that police forces were properly equipped and trained to meet such incidents. Chief Police Officers had a duty of care to their officers, which extended through them to Governors and as far as the UK Government and should things go badly wrong through lack of proper training or equipment they could face litigation for dereliction of this duty.
Mr.Burgess told FIBS that his interest in police firearms use began in 1998, when he was Commissioner of Police in Monserrat in the Carribbean, in the aftermath of the volcano there. He had taken the opportunity to do a thematic inspection of the other overseas territories of the Caribbean in relation to firearms. There had been one or two incidents there where things had gone quite badly wrong and it was obvious that the forces in question needed to start to re-train and re-equip, right the way through the ranks, to ensure that their response was better.
Mr Burgess commented that it was not particularly difficult for people to acquire a firearms licence in the Falklands and that this was not a bad thing because firearms were regarded principally as tools and the Falklands lacks the problems that currently exist in Britain. He was not particularly worried by the level of firearms held in the Falklands, because there isn't a history of armed crime in the Falklands. However, he said, it was good to see that the Chief of Police had considerable discretion to impose his own rules and regulations under the Firearms Ordinance, citing as an example the ban on the importation of pump-action shotguns by previous Chiefs of Police, which meant that they were now becoming scarce.
Mr.Burgess told FIBS that it was his job simply to point out to Governors or chiefs of police the possible consequences of not responding to his recommendations. He worked to the Association of Chief Police Officers Manual of Guidance on Police Use of Firearms and expected that overseas territories would take it all on board, or at least extract those elements which appeared to apply to their own situations.
With regard to the Royal Falkland Islands Police, the FCO inspector said that there would be one or two recommendations coming out of his report, "but nothing major".
John Fowler (MP) Stanley