Posted: Thursday 13th November 2014
During the past week, Nottinghamshire Police has faced intense scrutiny following the accidental discharge of a firearm in the vicinity of a group of schoolchildren and parents visiting Force HQ on Thursday, October 30. This very serious and regrettable incident occurred during a pre-planned visit in which the families were being introduced to specialist policing departments within the Force including firearms and dogs. Following the accidental discharge, a seven-year-old Nottinghamshire girl who was among the visiting group was found with a minor injury to her lip, suspected of being caused by an empty cartridge as it ejected from a gun fired into the ground.
As an operational incident, I cannot comment on the specific details of the case as that responsibility lies entirely with the Force. However, I would like to make it clear that I regard the issue extremely seriously and welcome the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s (IPCC’s) decision to launch a full and independent investigation into the details surrounding the case.
I was alerted to the incident immediately by the Chief Constable, who also informed the IPCC at the earliest opportunity. There was never any question of a cover up to prevent a full and proper investigation taking place, all of the necessary procedures were followed to ensure that such a disturbing incident received the full scrutiny it warranted.
The decision not to proactively release information about the incident to the media was an operational one, taken by the Chief Constable, who did not want the families involved to face unnecessary and unwanted media attention.
The decision was not mine, and I would have taken a different approach in view of the severity of the issue.
The incident could have had a very tragic outcome and I’m incredibly grateful that it didn’t. I think there is an urgency for a full and detailed investigation – clearly this must never be allowed to happen again. And I firmly believe that in the pursuit of transparency and openness within policing, details about the incident should have been announced much sooner.
As the voice of the public, I’m working very hard to gain trust within our communities and this is only achieved by being transparent and accountable at all times, even during those situations where our reputation and professionalism are called into question. My view is that it is better for the purposes of integrity and reliability to be proactive with negative news from the outset. This will not make the situation any easier to cope with but in my opinion honesty and openness are appreciated by the public.
The Health and Safety Executive was notified about last week’s incident, following my advice. The Chief Constable himself has given me assurances that measures are already in place prevent a similar incident. This includes a tightening of procedures when members of the public visit the Force. In future, all visits must be approved by a member of the Chief Officer Team. Similarly, the Force has checked to ensure that all its armed officers’ training is up-to-date and that officers fully understand firearms procedures.
The priority now is the welfare of the families involved in this incident and getting to the bottom of how and why it occurred. The IPCC will no doubt undertake a thorough examination of the facts however it could take some time for the results are available and I would like the outcome to be known sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I will be seeking further clarity that procedures are watertight in the future.