Scotland politics

Police Scotland received 27 complaints over armed policy since May

Armed police
Image caption Police Scotland has yet to finalise its change in policy around the deployment of armed officers

Police Scotland has received 27 complaints from members of the public since May about its controversial armed policing policy, MSPs heard.

The force backed down from its policy of arming some officers for routine duties following a backlash last year.

Giving evidence at Holyrood, Assistant Chief Constable Bernie Higgins said armed officers were among the best trained in the force.

But he accepted police intelligence could sometimes get it wrong.

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins told Holyrood's justice sub-committee that during a recent incident in Edinburgh two armed officers were confronted with a man wielding a knife.

Officer stabbed

One was stabbed four times, he said, but the officers did not shoot the attacker because they feared it would put members of the public standing nearby at risk.

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins said in another instance armed officers had comforted an injured pensioner in the street and intervened to prevent street brawls developing further.

But he also confirmed that they had issued fixed penalties for public urination, drinking in the street and breach of the peace.

In October, following pressure from politicians and civic society, Police Scotland said specialist armed police officers in Scotland would in future only be deployed to firearms incidents or where there is a threat to life.

Earlier this month, in front of the same committee, Assistant Chief Constable Higgins said since October 2014 armed officers had "engaged with the public" on 1,644 occasions, including stopping drink-drivers and helping find missing people.

He told MSPs then a review of the policy was currently being undertaken and was close to being finalised.

'Entirely appropriate'

During Thursday's session, Assistant Chief Constable Higgins also accepted criticism of police intelligence which led to a 91-year-old driver being ordered from his car at gunpoint by four armed officers.

Mr Higgins said: "Based on the information the firearms officers had that time, their actions were entirely appropriate.

"There was criticism of Police Scotland in terms of the intelligence that was held, the information that was held, and how quickly or otherwise that was passed to firearms officers."

Some MSPs raised concerns about armed police seen shopping in supermarkets.

Police Scotland received more than 5,000 complaints since May in total, said Assistant Chief Constable Higgins, ranging from incivility to use of excessive force.

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