Authorised Firearms Officer

Authorised Firearms Officer

An Authorised Firearms Officer (AFO) is a British police officer who has received training and authorisation to carry and use firearms. The designation is significant because within the United Kingdom police officers do not routinely carry firearms. Police officers of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, however, do routinely carry firearms due to the nature of the threat that they have historically faced. Also the Ministry of Defence Police who guard MoD property and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary who guard civil nuclear energy facilities, routinely carry firearms.


All police services in the United Kingdom have an AFO selection processcite book |title= Armed Police, The Police Use of Firearms since 1945 |last=Waldren |first=Michael J. |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= 2007 |publisher= Sutton |location= England |isbn= 0750946377 |pages= 224] , varying slightly between each force. As with many police specialties, all Authorised Firearms Officers have volunteered for the role. Candidates are required to gain approval from their superiors before embarking on a series of interviews, psychological and physical fitness, medical and assessment days before permission to commence firearms training is approved. This is no guarantee of success - candidates can be returned to their previous role at any point in training.

Authorised Firearms Officers, who are known to crew Armed Response Vehicles (ARV) are invited to attend the Training Centre, after they have undergone the written tests and interviews along with the successful completion of their probationary period, with a further two years in a core policing role. The potential AFOs undergo one week of intensive training on the Glock 17 Pistol, and the Heckler & Koch MP5 Semi-Automatic Carbine. This is followed by a further six weeks of training focused on ARVs, such as driving techniques, high speed pursuit methods and safely executing controlled crashes. If successful, officers then carry a card signed by the designated chief firearms officer in their forcecite book |title= Armed Police, The Police Use of Firearms since 1945 |last=Waldren |first=Michael J. |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= 2007 |publisher= Sutton |location= England |isbn= 0750946377 |pages= 224] , and may draw weapons and deploy to incidents when authorised.

Once authorised, officers must go through regular and rigorous refresher courses and retests in all aspects of their training in order to keep their firearms 'ticket', such as being tested every four months, and requalifying for the role each year. Failing in any aspect can result in the officer having their ticket revoked, and any health issues which arise can also result in suspension from firearms duties, temporarily or otherwise.

Use of firearms officers

AFOs are utilised in certain units such as the Flying Squad (which deals with commercial armed robbery), Diplomatic Protection, and Special Branch (counter-terrorism).

Officers of the Ministry of Defence Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary are frequently armed due to the high-risk nature of the establishments they protect. They are the onlycite book |title= Armed Police, The Police Use of Firearms since 1945 |last=Waldren |first=Michael J. |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= 2007 |publisher= Sutton |location= England |isbn= 0750946377 |pages= 224] police forces to be armed with the Heckler & Koch MP7 personal defense weapon instead of the MP5 and G36 used by territorial police services.

Legal status of the use of firearms

AFO is the first level of firearms authorisation, the next being Specialist Firearms Officer (SFO), who are trained in skills such as hostage rescue and deal with major incidents or pre-planned operations.

Qualification as an AFO allows the officer to use not only conventional firearms, but also the Baton Gun and Taser. With the exception of a small number of 'Specially Trained Units' (STUs), only AFOs or SFOs can use these less-lethal weapons.

Firearms in use

AFO Firearms differ slightly from force to force, but the most common are:

* German Heckler & Koch MP5 (semi-automatic carbine) [ [] ]
* Austrian Steyr AUG (Semi Automatic Carbine, some forces issue the AUG instead of the H&K MP5)
* German Heckler & Koch G3 (assault rifle, used as sniper)
* German Heckler & Koch G36c (semi-automatic carbine) [ [] ]
* Austrian Glock 17 (pistol) [ [] ]
* Swiss/German Sig Sauer P226 (Pistol) [ [] ]
* German Heckler & Koch 69 "Baton Gun" - less lethal option (fires a large rubber bullet) [ [] ]
* American Taser International X26 (stun gun) [ [] ]

Non-Home office police standard firearms

* British SA80 (Assault rifle) - Ministry of Defence Police
* German Heckler & Koch MP7 (Personal defence weapon) - Ministry of Defence Police
* Belgian/American Browning High Power L9A1 (Pistol) - Royal Military Police, Ministry of Defence Police.

Metropolitan Police

Within the London Metropolitan Police there are a number of Operational Command Units (OCUs) that employ AFOs.

* The Territorial Support Group has a small pool of AFOs for certain security tasks.
* The Specialist Crime Directorate arms certain surveillance officers.
* Some detectives in the Flying Squad are armed.
* Special Branch deploys armed officers in its surveillance units, and in A Squad, which protects the Prime Minister and other dignitaries.
* Royalty Protection Department, which protects members of the Royal Family and guards royal property.
* Special Escort Group, which escorts and protects high-risk convoys and VIPs such as the Prime Minister and the Queen.
* Diplomatic Protection Group, which guards embassies and government buildings. It also provides the armed guards at Parliament to supplement the Palace of Westminster Division, which is unarmed.
* Aviation Security, which protects Heathrow and London City airports.
* Specialist Firearms Command (CO19), which provides armed support to the rest of the service, crewing Armed Response Vehicles and providing Specialist Firearms Officers (SFOs)
* Certain officers in the Greenwich are trained AFOs to provide occasional security for the high security court at Belmarsh.Fact|date=May 2007

ee also

* Police use of firearms in the United Kingdom
* Specialist Firearms Command (CO19)
* Specialist Firearms Officer
* Gun politics in the United Kingdom


External Links

* [ police, firearms unit]
* [ police, unofficial website]

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