Armed policing


This includes issues associated with organisational learning and debriefing. Post incident procedures, management, welfare, legal issues and the provision of accounts by officers are outlined in a broadly chronological manner. The responsibilities of key roles are also considered.


Post-deployment procedures

Post deployment procedures are designed to ensure that all armed deployments, irrespective of whether weapons have been discharged, are conducted in a manner which:

  • ensures the integrity of the legal process in respect of police action, persons arrested or evidential material seized
  • enables follow-up action related to any ongoing crime
  • identifies any operational or safety-critical issues in respect of procedures, training, weapons or equipment used
  • ensures individual, team and organisational learning takes place and is addressed both locally and nationally as appropriate.

The procedures are scalable, and forces should consider their proportionate application according to circumstances. The procedures to be adopted range from the documentation of outcomes, through to structured operational debriefing.

An auditable log of each armed deployment must be made and signed off by an appropriate supervisor or commander in accordance with force policy.

The National Decision Model provides a structure which can be used to ensure that post deployment issues are addressed and can assist as a structure for any debrief process.

Following the deployment of authorised firearms officers (AFOs) consideration should be given to:

  • the impact of the deployment on the community (see community impact assessment)
  • media management (see media releases)
  • the nature of any debrief to be undertaken
  • the requirement for an explanation or, where appropriate, an apology to affected persons.

The appropriateness and sequence of the above issues will depend on the circumstances and whether the criteria for a post incident investigation have been met. If a post incident investigation is to be undertaken, the appropriateness of any of the above considerations should be discussed and agreed with the relevant investigative authority. Issues which become relevant when an investigation is conducted are set out in post incident procedures.


Once an armed deployment has been concluded, a full debrief should be considered to identify opportunities for operational and organisational learning. Prior to officers finishing duty, the senior supervisory officer should also consider if there are any outstanding issues which need to be addressed.

Large or protracted operations should include arrangements for a specific debriefing session so that good practice or areas for development related to command structure, tactics or equipment used can be identified and lessons learned. All debriefs should be documented.

Organisational learning debrief

It may be appropriate to undertake an organisational learning debrief when the criteria for post incident investigation have been met and an independent investigation has commenced.

Organisational learning debriefs provide an opportunity to identify potential safety related improvements. Where conducted in the context of a post incident investigation, careful facilitation and identified terms of reference are required in order to ensure that the matters discussed do not compromise the independent investigation.

Such a debrief should only be undertaken once detailed accounts or evidential statements have been provided to the independent investigative authority and an indication has been given that, having considered the evidence available at that stage, there is no suggestion of criminal action or misconduct on the part of any of those attending the debrief. Where such criminal acts or misconduct have been identified this should be taken into account in determining whether a debrief is appropriate. Legal advice should be obtained as appropriate.

The independent investigative authority and, where required, the police SIO for the crime investigation relating to the original incident should be informed that an organisational learning debrief is being considered. They should also be provided with the terms of reference. Any observations or objections should be documented so that they may be considered when a decision is made on whether such a debrief is appropriate under the circumstances.

Is an organisational learning debrief appropriate?

Although any decision to undertake an operational learning debrief whilst an independent investigation is ongoing will be based on the prevailing circumstances, in general terms the most likely areas for consideration will be:

  • asset allocation
  • command structures and access to tactical advice
  • tactical capability to respond to an incident.

It is not appropriate to address the specific actions of individuals, evidential issues relating to witness accounts, or scene and post incident management during such a debrief.

The decision relating to conducting an organisational learning debrief should be taken by an individual who did not perform an operational or command role in the incident being debriefed. This decision and its supporting rationale should be recorded.

Who should conduct an organisational learning debrief?

The individual(s) tasked with facilitating the debrief should have an appropriate knowledge of local and national guidance related to armed policing and should be an accredited post incident manager (PIM) who did not perform an operational or command role in the incident being debriefed. Where this cannot be achieved, a trained debriefer, supported by a PIM, should be used.

Record keeping

A record of those attending the debrief, and a suitable summary of the discussions should be maintained. This summary should include identified good practice and areas for development which will support the organisational learning and improvement. Where anonymity has been granted to any person attending, this should be documented appropriately.

The National Armed Policing Secretariat has a responsibility for disseminating good practice and lessons learned. Forces are encouraged to submit early reports to the secretariat using the following email address: [email protected]

Post incident procedures

The term post incident is used to describe situations in which shots have been discharged by the police, or where an investigation into police action is to be conducted. As with post deployment procedures, these are also scalable. For example, the full procedure may not need to take place every time and will depend on the significance and consequences of the event.

Home Office (2003) Code of Practice on the Police Use of Firearms and Less Lethal Weapons requires chief officers to ensure that operating protocols exist within their forces that define the action to be taken throughout the various stages of an investigation.

Criteria for post incident investigations

Post incident investigations will commence in all situations where there has been a discharge of a weapon by the police (including those involving a conventional firearm or less lethal weapon), whether intentional or unintentional which has or may have:

  • resulted in death or serious injury – these will be subject to mandatory referral to the IPCC, or another independent investigative authority (IIA)
  • revealed failings in command
  • caused danger to officers or the public.

Cases which have revealed failings in command or have caused danger to officers or the public, or where it is in the public interest should be referred to the independent investigative authority, as a voluntary referral. If the above criteria are not met, the force should consider the proportionate application of these procedures, where appropriate.

Where firearms and less lethal weapons have been discharged by police officers, it is in the interests of the public, the police service and everyone involved in the incident, that subsequent procedures should be open and transparent, and that the integrity of all action can be demonstrated.

Who will investigate?

Investigations may be conducted by the force professional standards department or an IIA, such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland or, in Scotland, under arrangements set out by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). The Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland may also be involved where an incident has led to complaints. Investigations may also be undertaken by the Heath and Safety Executive.

Initial action

Where weapons have been discharged or a person has been shot or seriously injured during an armed deployment, the force control room or tactical firearms commander (where appointed) must be informed immediately. Arrangements should also be made to ensure that the strategic firearms commander and appropriate ACPO officer on duty or on call are informed as soon as possible. The overall responsibility for post incident procedures should rest with an ACPO officer or senior officer (who has not been involved in the operational phase). This officer is responsible for initiating:

  • the post incident investigation (including informing the independent investigative authority)
  • post incident management.

The relevant IIA should be informed so that a decision can be made on whether the incident meets the criteria for a post incident investigation. Where an independent investigation is to take place, the information given to the investigative authority should include the action being taken and arrangements made for them to commence a post incident investigation.

In situations which do not require investigation by an IIA, the incident may be investigated by the professional standards department of the force concerned, in accordance with local procedures. The information provided in this module is relevant to any investigation, whether carried out by the force’s professional standards department or by the relevant IIA.

There are a number of roles specific to the post incident process. These are:

  • post incident manager (PIM)
  • initial investigating officer (IIO)
  • investigator from an IIA or force professional standards department.

The responsibilities of those involved in the post incident process, including the strategic, tactical and operational firearms commanders, are outlined in post incident responsibilities

Immediate post incident command considerations

Consideration should be given to the appointment of an IIO by the force in which the incident occurred. Where appropriate, this should be done in consultation with the IIA (where involved). The role of the IIO should include all initial investigative issues pending the handover to an appointed investigator from an IIA or other department.

Initial command considerations

Following the discharge of a firearm, the tactical firearms commander should initially establish what has taken place. This includes the extent of any casualties and taking action, as appropriate, to ensure:

  • resources are adequately deployed to deal with the situation, including medical aid, welfare and operational and technical support
  • continuity of command of any ongoing crime-in-action
  • integrity of process in relation to securing best evidence
  • senior command and independent investigative authorities are notified of the event
  • the community impact is considered and, where appropriate, action is taken to address these issues.

Where there will be a time delay in the arrival of an investigator, a command decision should be made as to how and by whom the scene should be managed and investigatory issues commenced.

Priorities pending the arrival of the IIA

These include:

  • management of the scene
  • establishing what took place
  • identifying of witnesses
  • identifying of principal officers
  • identifying and securing exhibits
  • managing the media.

Managed transition

The interim arrangements should enable a managed transition from the operational phase of the incident to the investigation. In this transitional phase close liaison between the tactical firearms commander, the IIO and an officer appointed by the force to manage the post incident process.

Initial actions of the strategic firearms commander

On being notified of an incident, the strategic firearms commander should make an assessment regarding continuity of command, and take action to ensure command resilience. This may involve consideration of the command support that is required.

The strategic firearms commander should also consider the strategic issues that need to be addressed in respect of the:

  • incident
  • community
  • police force(s) involved and any service-wide considerations.

Responsibilities in relation to the welfare of all staff involved are addressed under welfare considerations.

Initial actions of the tactical firearms commander

The tactical firearms command actions will include establishing:

  • is any person injured – and, if so, are they receiving appropriate medical attention?
  • what action is being taken, or needs to be taken, to secure the scene?
  • what additional resources are required?
  • is there an ongoing threat to life or operational imperative that requires continued action from armed officers at the location of the incident?
  • to what extent have the original operational objectives been met?
  • are there any new or emerging threats or risks outstanding to any person?
  • what control measures are in place in respect of these?
  • are there any critical operational safety issues identified that require immediate attention?
  • are any subjects at large? What action is required to locate them?
  • have relevant scenes been identified? What action is required to preserve scenes and evidence?
  • has an appropriate post incident procedure been implemented?
  • have arrangements been made to hand over to the IIO?
  • has the force professional standards department been notified?
  • has the strategic firearms commander been briefed?

The tactical firearms command responsibilities will be relevant until such time as the tactical firearms commander is relieved of their responsibilities, or the incident is brought to a conclusion.

Management at the scene

Threats neutralised, scene safe

When weapons have been discharged, officers should take all necessary action to ensure that threats are neutralised and that the scene is safe. Officers should remain operationally active until stood down.

Communication with control room

The fact that weapons have been discharged and details of any persons injured or killed should be reported to the control room and/or tactical firearms commander as soon as practicable. Situational and safety critical information should be relayed as soon as possible.

Medical aid

Provision of medical aid is a priority.

Secure the scene

Where possible, and without compromise to the security of officers and persons in the vicinity, action should be taken to secure the scene.

Secure firearms and ammunition

Securing firearms and ammunition carried by officers is an important part of the evidence gathering process. Weapons which have been fired should, as far as practicable, be maintained in the condition they were in immediately after being fired, pending forensic examination. Where any police weapon has failed to fire, was discharged unintentionally, or is suspected of any malfunction, it should be isolated for forensic examination.

All firearms which have been discharged, operationally drawn or pointed during the operation should be identified, as this will be relevant information in the post incident investigation. The IIO, in conjunction with the IIA, will determine which of these weapons need to be treated as exhibits.

Where a subject has been shot and a weapon is still in their possession, it should be removed from them and secured. Any other weapons found at a scene should remain where they are located, unless this compromises public safety or the security of the exhibit. Wherever possible, weapons recovered at the scene should not be interfered with or made safe, unless there is an operational or safety imperative.

Immediate welfare of officers

An officer who is injured, traumatised or in a state of shock should have their weapon removed by the operational firearms commander, team leader or other suitably qualified officer. This should, preferably, be someone who has not been directly involved in the the discharge of firearms. The officer should ensure the weapon’s security. A duel emphasis on safety and evidential integrity should be applied at all times.

Officers who have been involved in an incident where shots have been discharged, or where death or serious injury has occurred should not be isolated from one another as a matter of routine (see separation). There may, however, be considerations regarding the prevention of forensic cross-contamination.

Appoint a scene manager

The appointment of a senior manager should be a priority. The scene manager will be responsible for securing evidence, deploying forensic experts and ensuring forensic recovery in accordance with the forensic strategy.

Record information

The position of recovered weapons should be noted and relayed to the person who is taking charge at the scene. Where, for operational or security reasons, it has been necessary to take any action in respect of a recovered weapon, details of the precise procedures followed should be recorded.

As far as possible, the positions of officers at the scene of an incident where firearms have been discharged should be recorded. The deployment of AFOs will, however, often demand the rapid movement of officers. This may involve key actions being taken and weapons being discharged by officers from more than one position during an event which is developing in very fast time. In addition, officers may become involved in detaining a subject, action to search and secure any weapons found and/or in the provision of medial assistance. In these circumstances precise and accurate recall of where officers were at each stage of the tactical deployment is often not possible.

Where there is an operational imperative to remove a person, vehicle or equipment from the scene at an early stage, the reason for this should be recorded along with their initial location, for the purpose of any future investigation.

Deal with police vehicles

Unless there is a safety critical reason, the police vehicles in which the principal officers attended the scene are not to be removed without the express authority of the tactical forearms commander or the IIO.

Return to police station

As soon as is practicable after the scene has been secured,  AFOs involved in the incident should return to a police station or other suitable location where post incident procedures will take place. This will assist in securing the integrity of the scene, defuse any tensions at the scene and enable post incident issues, including those of evidence and welfare, to be attended to.

Situational/safety critical information

Where officers have discharged weapons, they are permitted, and may be required, to relay situational and safety critical information to those involved in the ongoing management of the incident or operation.

On their return to a police station or location where post incident procedures will take place, arrangements will be made for the initial welfare and investigative issues to be addressed in a structured and sensitive manner.

Post incident management

Principal officers

During a post incident investigation, the IIA will, at an early stage, wish to identify the principal officers directly related to the decision to use force.

As the investigation unfolds, others involved in the operation, whose actions or decisions were involved in informing or making critical decisions, may be regarded as principal officers. In the initial stages all actions taken by, and in respect of, principal officers in relation to securing evidence, discussion undertaken and notes made must be documented.

Prior to officers providing accounts of what happened, the following issues should be addressed:

  • weapons and exhibits secured
  • welfare, including medical and legal advice considerations.

Role of the post incident manager

The PIM facilitates, manages and ensures the integrity of the post incident procedure. Chief officers must ensure that arrangements exist whereby appropriately selected, trained, assessed and accredited PIMs are available.

When an officer has attended and satisfactorily completed a course of instruction based on the post incident management module in the National Police Firearms Training Curriculum, they will be assessed to be occupationally competent to perform the role of a PIM.

Chief officers are responsible for ensuring that PIMs are able to maintain their operational competence by regularly performing the role or actively participating in relevant continuous professional development activities. Forces should consider implementing an auditable period of shadowing, mentoring and performance review as a means of achieving operational competence.

Refresher training and re-accreditation

PIMs must undertake annual refresher training. This process must include any relevant National Armed Policing updates and refresher packages, together with local training which supports force and regional issues identified in the force’s armed policing strategic threat and risk assessment (STRA).

On completion of this annual refresher training, a PIM’s operational competence should be formally approved by the lead chief officer, or a person nominated by them, with responsibility for the management, command and deployment of armed officers. Forces should maintain records of officers’ refresher training in order to show their continued competence.

PIMs must be formally re-accredited at least every five years, but consideration should be given to re-accreditation between three to five years depending on operational exposure.

Nomination of a PIM following an incident

A PIM will usually be nominated by the force to which the principal officer(s) belong. This will apply to any policing incident or operation, including those which cross force boundaries. Appropriate support should be available from the force in whose area the incident occurs.

Forces should consider the possibility of incidents crossing force boundaries and have appropriate joint operational force and regional protocols to deal with post incident procedures. PIMs often perform their role as part of a PIM team, under the direction of an overall PIM.

Initial PIM responsibilities

An early decision should be made on which officers will be considered principal officers, by the PIM in conjunction with the ACPO officer or delegated senior officer responsible for the post incident procedures, the tactical firearms commander and the IIO. The outcome of this decision will depend on the circumstances of the incident.

The PIM’s responsibilities will normally commence following the return of the principal officer(s) to a police station or other area where the post incident procedures will take place. In some situations, eg, where the officers are delayed at the scene, it may be appropriate for the PIM to go to the scene.

The PIM’s role is to:

  • facilitate the investigation
  • ensure integrity of process
  • ensure that the principal officers’ needs are addressed in a manner which does not compromise the investigative process.

The principal officer(s) should be informed of developments and provided with explanations of procedure, as well as obtaining the practical assistance they need.

Anonymity of officers

The PIM should ensure that action is taken to maintain the anonymity of principal officers until such a time as this is deemed to be unnecessary. Where necessary, the PIM should consider approaching an ACPO officer or delegated senior officer regarding the need to protect the anonymity of principal officers.

As with any witness or suspect, concerns for the safety of some principal officers and their families means their anonymity should be addressed at an early stage.

Procedures should be in place which consider the anonymity of officers prior to deployment and , if necessary, subsequently should any shooting occur. It should be made clear to officers involved that the issue of anonymity may be the subject of judicial proceedings or challenges and may have to be reversed at a later stage.

Suggested measures to preserving the anonymity of principal officers include:

  • restricting access to systems and documents containing details of principal officers
  • using anonymous references (eg, Officer ‘A’) at an early stage (with a list of such references compiled for inclusion in documents)
  • omitting officer details and identity from communications and circulations, including media releases
  • advising all officers of their responsibility to maintain confidentiality
  • advising the IIA, Crown Prosecution Service and other agencies that anonymous references have been used
  • maintaining a list of the names of officers involved in the incident, (which should be protectively marked as appropriate).

Weapons and exhibits

On return to the location where post incident procedures are taking place, weapons which have been discharged should be identified, as should all other weapons deployed in the immediate vicinity of the shooting.

When weapons are unloaded and exhibited, consideration should be given to photographing or videoing the process. Where this is not practicable, a detailed documented account of the weapon’s state and the procedure used for unloading should be completed. The handling and securing of weapons involved in the incident must be undertaken in a manner which maintains the forensic integrity of these exhibits.

All firearms, ammunition, less lethal weapons and specialist munitions should be accounted for in a manner which ensures that safety, recording and accountability are properly addressed.

Initial investigating officers will, in liaison with the IIA (where involved) consider which weapons are required to be secured as exhibits, and whether clothing should be secured or officers examined for forensic traces. It is good practice for this decision to be outlined to the officers in person.

To avoid any dangers of cross-contamination, officers’ weapons should be secured by a different person from the one securing the subject’s weapon.

Since AFOs will, invariably, have moved to another location, it is important that they do not have to await the conclusion of the scene examination before their firearms are taken for examination. All officers involved in an incident will be required to assist with the forensic preservation of their weapons and equipment.

AFOs train with firearms while wearing operational clothing, and regularly visit locations at which weapons and munitions are used and stored. Therefore the evidential value of their clothing for examination is likely to be limited.

The PIM or officer coordinating collection of weapon exhibits will ensure that the weapons are unloaded and handed over, in a controlled manner and by an appropriately trained officer, to the appointed exhibits officer at the post incident management suite or other appropriate location.

Where a weapon is examined and found not to have been fired or is no longer required as evidence, arrangements should be made, in liaison with the IIA (where involved) for it to be returned to the relevant department as soon as practicable.

No dispute over who fired the shots

If there is no dispute as to who fired shots, there may be no requirement for other measures to identify officers.

Measures such as securing clothing or taking swab samples to forensically identify those officers contaminated by firearms discharge residue will normally only be adopted in exceptional circumstances.

When an investigating officer considers it necessary to obtain additional forensic evidence from officers, the PIM will record the rationale and discuss it with the IIO. If the IIO requires additional forensic evidence, the PIM will explain the rationale to the officers concerned and make a record in their policy log.

If clothing is to be taken, suitable, alternative clothing must be provided.

Welfare considerations

The welfare needs of officers should be addressed throughout the post incident process. Considerations will include, but should not be limited to:

  • immediate need for first aid and other medical assistance
  • securing weapons and equipment
  • the provision of refreshments
  • making phone calls to immediate family members or partners regarding officers’ wellbeing and possible retention on duty
  • showering and appropriate change of clothes (provided there are no forensic matters to be addressed).

Legal advice and support

Principal officers should be supported by their supervisory officers and given the opportunity to consult representatives of their relevant staff association as soon as possible. Every effort should be made to ensure that early professional legal advice is made available in appropriate cases. This is particularly important where officers have used force as they may be subject to an investigation which can include potential criminal offences.

Medical examination

Officers who were in the immediate vicinity of the discharge of firearms or other munitions should be examined by a registered medical practitioner as a matter of course, subject to their consent, as they may have suffered an injury of which they are not aware.

All officers should check for such injuries to themselves and their colleagues.

Where a registered medical practitioner is called to examine an officer, they should be briefed about the background of the incident and the reasons for the examination. Any other information or personal circumstances which may be relevant to the examination should also be provided.

The most appropriate supervising officer to brief the registered medical practitioner may be the PIM or a member of their team. The content of any outline of the incident given to the registered medical practitioner must be documented.

Welfare support

An incident involving the use of firearms by police officers which results in death or injury may affect those involved differently. It is not possible to say who may be affected and to what extent. However, those affected may include those at the scene and those who were directing resources (including control room staff and those making critical decisions). Officers who have not discharged weapons or suffered injury may also be traumatised.

All officers involved in an incident where firearms have been discharged by police officers, whether or not they are principal officers, should be able to receive support from the occupational health unit or professional health adviser. This opportunity should be provided within 72 hours if possible.

Article 2 ECHR and the duty to investigate

European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) article 2 imposes a positive duty on the State to conduct an effective official investigation when individuals have been killed as a result of the use of force by agents of the State, (ie, the police). The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has held that the investigation must:

  • be on the State’s own initiative (eg, not civil proceedings)
  • be independent, both institutionally and in practice
  • be capable of leading to a determination of whether the force used was justified in the circumstances and to the identification and punishment of those responsible
  • be prompt
  • allow for sufficient public scrutiny to ensure accountability
  • allow the next of kin to participate, see Jordan v UK (2003) 37 EHRR 2.

These principles were approved by the House of Lords in the case of ex parte Amin (the Zahid Mubarek case) [2003] UKHL 51, [2004] HRLR 3.

Purpose of an article 2 investigation

The requirements under European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) article 2 are relevant and can extend to any situation in which death or serious injury occurs during an incident or operation in which police are involved.

The essential purpose of an article 2 investigation is:

  • to secure the effective implementation of domestic laws which protect the right to life and
  • in those cases involving agents of the State, to ensure their accountability for deaths occurring under their responsibility.

The investigation must be capable of leading to a determination of whether the force used was or was not justified in the circumstances, and to the identification and punishment of those responsible in appropriate cases.

Effective investigation

Reasonable steps must be taken to secure all relevant evidence, including witness testimony and forensic evidence.

Any deficiency in the investigation which undermines its capability of establishing the circumstances of the case or the person responsible is liable to fall short of the required measure of effectiveness.

The aim of an investigation into a police-related shooting is, therefore, twofold:

  • to ensure that the applicable law is properly followed and implemented, ie, so that, where appropriate, effective criminal proceedings are brought
  • to ensure police accountability, whether or not criminal proceedings are brought.

Independent investigations

The scope of the investigation is likely to be wide ranging. It will not only include the circumstances of any injury to, or death of, any person who may have been shot, but also the circumstances leading up to the discharge of firearms, and all the issues surrounding this such as the management and planning of the deployment.

By their very nature, incidents involving the discharge of a firearm by a police officer attract public interest, and can be highly emotive and stressful for all involved.

As a consequence, both the investigative function and the chief officer’s duty of care to officers and police staff involved must be afforded a high priority.

Communication and duty of care

The duty of care to officers and police staff will extend to welfare, physical, psychological and medical support. In addition, police staff associations have arrangements for providing advice and support to officers, including legal advice.

In facilitating the provision of these services, investigating officers, PIMs and staff association representatives have distinct roles. It is, however, essential that all officers, PIMs and those involved in any debriefing process are able to demonstrate integrity of purpose in all communications between each other and in record making and debrief procedures.

Investigative function

In the initial stages following the discharge of firearms, the police service should take all appropriate steps to reduce any possible risks of the investigation, required under European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) article 2, being undermined by any deficiencies, such as failing to secure the evidence, (including witness testimony and forensic evidence). The procedures adopted should be designed to demonstrate integrity of purpose in all actions and discussions between the officers involved and, must be able to withstand scrutiny.

Nothing in this section should be interpreted as constraining effective action by the police service or the officers involved in adopting an operationally necessary procedure to secure best evidence, arrest or bring to justice those who may be involved in ongoing criminal activity, or a follow-up investigative process.

The responsibility for securing evidence and taking appropriate action in an article 2 investigation remains with the police service until such time as the IIA has taken over the investigation. The responsibility of the police force being investigated is to facilitate the investigation, through, for example:

  • the identification and preservation of scenes and exhibits
  • the identification of immediately available witnesses
  • securing physical evidence
  • the availability of experienced family or witness liaison officers.

Early notification to the IIA will enable appropriate procedures to be adopted and initial actions required by the police to be agreed at an early stage.

Providing accounts

Following the discharge of a firearm by the police, there will be a requirement for those involved to provide relevant information in a number of formats. This will vary depending on the recipient of the information and the purpose for which it is being provided. It can be reasonably expected that the information initially provided may become more detailed or potentially alter as the circumstances become clearer.

In order to clarify the purpose and status of the information provided, it may be helpful to consider the provision of information and accounts chronologically as a staged process. It is recognised that the particular circumstances of the incident may make it unnecessary or inappropriate to include one or more of the stages outlined. Where a principal officer is unfit to make a ‘personal initial account’ then stage three will not be appropriate. Where a principal officer is suspected of a criminal or misconduct offence then stages three or four will not apply.

Stage one – situation report
Following the discharge of firearms by the police, the tactical firearms commander or force control room must be informed immediately. This notification is likely to be provided by radio communication from an officer at the scene of the incident. The information provided should be sufficient to provide a situational report which will enable the tactical firearms commander to manage the ongoing incident and assist them to discharge their post incident responsibilities.
Stage two – PIM basic facts
The PIM is responsible for establishing the basic facts of what happened. Where possible, this information should come from a source other than a principal officer see initial post incident manager responsibilities. This is most likely to take place at the nominated post incident location, where the basic facts will be provided by an individual who is willing to supply them. The basic facts will be provided (subject to legal advice where appropriate) in either verbal or written format. A staff association representative may also be present. It may be appropriate for the PIM to advise all of those present of the need to maintain anonymity. The basic facts obtained by the PIM should, where possible, be sufficient to:

  • confirm which officers were at the scene
  • describe in brief the role(s) of those at the scene
  • confirm who discharged their weapons.

The basic facts recorded or received by the PIM should be confirmed with the person providing them to certify accuracy, and should be timed, dated and signed by the PIM. The original record should be handed to the independent investigatory authority at the earliest opportunity. A copy should be retained by the PIM and the person providing the basic facts.

Basic facts from the principal officer

Where the only person able to provide the basic facts has been, or may be, identified as a principal officer, the PIM should:

  • offer them the opportunity to take legal advice before obtaining the information
  • be aware of the need to take only basic information
  • record, date and time all information provided.

It may be the case that this is the first account that the principal officer has given this will mean that the account will be disclosable in court and any differences between this and the officer’s later account may be challenged. The use of a pro forma to obtain or document the PIM basic facts is not appropriate.

Stage three – personal initial accounts
Subject to legal and medical advice, officers should provide a personal initial account of the incident before going off duty. Each officer’s initial account should consist only of their individual recollection of events and should be written, signed and dated. Detailed accounts will be made later. The purpose of the personal initial account is to record their role, what they believe to be the essential facts and should, where relevant, outline the honestly held belief that resulted in their use of force. The same guidance relating to conferring applies to both personal accounts and detailed accounts.
Stage four – detailed accounts, statements and interviews
Detailed accounts should not normally be obtained immediately. They can be left until the officers involved in the shooting are better able to articulate their experience in a coherent format. This is usually after at least forty-eight hours. The detailed account should include, if relevant, why the witness considered the use of force and discharge of firearms to be absolutely necessary.


The IIA may wish to have detailed statements from witnesses. These statements may be taken by the IIA or be provided by the witness themselves. The manner in which the statements are obtained or provided will be decided by individual witnesses subject to the level advice they receive. Where officers decide to provide their own statements, these should be (except in exceptional circumstances) submitted to the IIA within seven days of the incident.


Under Paragraph 19F(3) of Schedule 3 to the Police Reform Act 2002, the IPCC has a power to compel police witnesses to attend an interview.

Where this power is invoked, and the police witness is unable to attend an interview on the date requested, or agree an alternative date, the witness must propose a reasonable date and time within 5 working days of the date specified by the investigator.

Police witnesses may be accompanied during the interview, and cannot be compelled to answer questions during that interview. The manner in which a police witness provides their detailed account will be subject to the legal advice they receive.

For further information see IPCC Police Witness Policy.


As a matter of general practice, officers should not confer with others before making their accounts (whether initial or subsequent accounts). There may, however, be a need speak to one another following the discharge of a police firearm in order to resolve an ongoing operational or safety matter. The important issue is to individually record what their honestly held belief of the situation was at the time force was used. There should, therefore, be no need for an officer to confer with others about what was in their mind at the time force was used. If, however, in a particular case a need to confer on other issues does arise, then, in order to ensure transparency and maintain public confidence, where some discussion has taken place, officers must document the fact that this has taken place, highlighting:

  • time, date and place where conferring took place
  • the issues discussed
  • with whom
  • the reasons for such discussion.


The Code of Ethics provides a positive obligation on police officers and the police service to ensure that all activity, including that which relates to the recording of accounts, is transparent and capable of withstanding scrutiny. Where an officer has concerns that the integrity of the process is not being maintained, they must immediately draw this to the attention of the person in charge of the post incident process and ensure that this is documented.

Process initiation and management

An officer of ACPO rank is ultimately responsible for the initiation and management of the post incident procedure. This will include the appointment of an officer to supervise the preparation of officers’ evidence and ensure compliance with the guidance on conferring prior to their accounts being recorded.

The officer appointed should, where practicable, be of substantive inspector rank (or equivalent) and be an accredited PIM. They must be appointed in addition to the PIM and not have held an operational or investigatory role in the originating incident. Their responsibility for ensuring the compliance with guidance begins when the principal officers arrive at the post incident suite. It includes supervising those principal officers while personal initial accounts and detailed accounts are made (unless such accounts are provided during an interview or are recorded).

The appointed officer will operate under the direction of the PIM and may, where appropriate, support the PIM in discharging their responsibilities related to the provision of accounts.

The appointed officer must fully record their observations and actions. The following support may be appropriate:

  • establishing principal officers’ legal status
  • ensuring access to legal representation/staff association or DLS where necessary or requested
  • explaining the conferring guidance contained in APP on armed policing to principal officers
  • ensuring that any conferring that takes place is compliant with APP and documented by those conferring
  • preventing any inappropriate conferring (eg, related to an individual’s honestly held belief at the time force was used)
  • ensuring that any reference material used by the officers is secured and handed to investigators against a receipt/exhibit number
  • documenting the process by which accounts are provided (including interruptions, breaks and abstractions)
  • ensuring that all accounts are time stamped by those making them as soon as practicable after completion.

Where access to the post incident suite is requested by the independent investigatory authority or initial investigating officer, such access should be provided. This access should be managed so as not to adversely impact on the post incident process or the welfare of principal officers, and will not relate to medical examinations or consultation with legal or staff association representatives.


Principal officers and key police witnesses should not be separated as a matter of routine. Separation should be considered where:

  • it is both necessary and practicable, and
  • where there are no implications for the safety of the public or officers.

A decision to separate officers should be made having considered whether separation is necessary to prevent the officers from conferring. This may be required, for example, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a criminal offence has been committed or where there is evidence that an officer has breached the standards of professional behaviour set out in the Code of Ethics.  It would also be appropriate to consider separation where there is evidence that Authorised Professional Practice (APP) is not being followed, or complied with.

Responsibility for decision making

A decision whether to separate principal officers or key police witnesses should be made by the PIM or responsible ACPO officer, as appropriate.

Where appropriate safeguards are in place to ensure that APP is adhered to, it may be decided that it is unnecessary to separate principal officers. Under these circumstances a written record should be made of this decision, the rationale supporting it, and all measures that have been put in place to prevent conferring.

Where a command decision is made to separate principal officers, or a request is made to do so, the rationale for this decision or request should also be recorded.

Effects of trauma on memory

A person involved in a traumatic or life-threatening encounter will often experience a range of physiological and psychological responses which may determine their perception of time, distance, auditory and visual stimuli and the chronology of key events. This may affect their ability immediately after the incident to recall what may be important detail. Where, over time, officers recall further information, this should be recorded in a further account.

An early requirement for information

There may be circumstances where it is necessary for officers to provide more detailed information at an earlier stage. This could be to address issues associated with a person who is now in custody, or in relation to an ongoing criminal investigation, eg, where a person was not arrested at the scene.

It is the responsibility of each individual police officer involved in the incident to ensure that any information that may be relevant to the investigation is revealed, recorded and retained. This information should include an officer’s own observations relating the incident and any accounts received from witnesses. Once officers involved have been able to make their initial accounts, arrangements will be made by the PIM to ensure that these accounts are secured and made available to the investigative authority.

Security and welfare of officers

The PIM will initiate an early threat assessment to determine whether there are any security issues in respect of the principal officers involved in the incident.

This will allow the PIM to recommend that the force puts in place the appropriate control measures to ensure the safety of the officer(s) and, where necessary, their families. An ongoing threat assessment process will continue until it is no longer required.

Officers’ families and homes

The principal officers’ force should consider whether the families of the officers involved will require extended welfare, medical and professional support from the force occupational health and welfare advisers. Families should be alerted to the possible reactions of those involved in such incidents and be afforded the opportunity to discuss this situation.

The Police Firearms Officers Association (PFOA) offers valuable additional support and appropriate services to principal officers and their families.

The security of an officer’s home should be considered at an early stage. The cost of any appropriate measures, such as the installation of a panic alarm direct to the nearest police station and improved locks, should be met by the officer’s force. Forces should have a policy on providing security and anonymity in appropriate cases.

Family liaison

In any incident where persons have been killed or injured as a result of police action, consideration should be given to the use of family liaison officers (FLOs).

It can also be beneficial to use these officers to support the families of police officers who have been significantly affected by firearms incidents, especially where the officer’s identity has become known to the public.


Defusing is a short and informal process designed to give immediate support to staff. It should be facilitated by trained people and take place as soon as possible after the event and, in any case, prior to conclusion of duty.

The defusing process may assist officers and other staff to recognise and manage the reactions and feelings that they are experiencing or may experience as a result of what they have been involved in.

Additional support

Consideration should be given to having a suitable person, eg, a trusted colleague, assigned to stay with an officer who has been traumatised or significantly affected during the hours immediately following the incident.

In appropriate cases this person should subsequently accompany the officer home. Consideration should also be given to supporting the families of officers involved, as well as to any other officers or members of staff who are significantly affected by the incident.

Special leave or suspension from duty

Special or administrative leave may be granted to a principal officer when appropriate. There may, however, be circumstances where such leave is not in an officer’s best interest and the officer and staff association should be consulted.

Suspension from duty should only be necessary in exceptional cases, and in accordance with force policy. When it is necessary to suspend an officer, that officer should still be able to contact colleagues within the police service and continue to receive appropriate medical and welfare support.


An officer’s authorisation to operationally carry a firearm should not automatically be removed and nor should they be automatically excluded from firearms training or other related duties.

An evidence-based assessment should be made by the police force, in conjunction with the IIA, the force professional standards unit and the provider of occupational health advice, as to when officers should be permitted to resume operational duties, including duties or roles in which they have regular access to firearms.

Any decision to remove an officer from operational firearms duty should be regularly reviewed (at least monthly) by the chief officer responsible for firearms policy, in consultation with the investigative authority.

Officers who have discharged their firearm must complete a mandatory occupational health post incident support programme provided by their force.

Media releases

Subject to any operational reasons, a cooperative and open media strategy should be adopted. The media strategy should be formulated in consultation with the IIA. A clear factual account of the incident should be provided at the earliest opportunity. Care must be taken to avoid compromising any subsequent judicial proceedings. Consideration should be given to the appointment of a specialist media officer who has knowledge of the police service use of firearms, such as the nature of training given to officers, the guidelines under which officers may discharge firearms and the kind of firearms carried.

Precautions should be taken to protect the officers and their families from unwanted publicity. The PIM must ensure that, where practicable, the principal officers are informed of all media releases prior to their circulation, and that he or she may make representations on their behalf. This action may assist in prompting officers to consider their families and others likely to be affected by a media release and allow them to make early arrangements to cater for any foreseeable problems.

No information that might unintentionally identify officers concerned with the incident should be passed to the media. In addition, sensitivity should be exercised in the completion of internal force publications or reports concerning the incident. Care must always be taken when using communications systems, including mobile phones.

Officers involved in the incident should avoid discussing the detail with personnel not involved in the incident, unless there is an operational imperative to do so. This is to prevent the possibility of uninformed rumour and to protect the identity of those involved.

Progress of the enquiry

The Police Reform Act 2002 requires that all interested persons should be kept informed of the progress of the enquiry (In England and Wales). Procedures should be put in place to ensure that regular updates are provided. The host force should consider the provision of an ongoing PIM or force liaison officer (either full or part-time) to facilitate this.

Procedures for providing updates may include a meeting with officers involved in an incident, as soon as practicable after it has occurred, and, in any event, providing the officers with terms of reference of the investigation within 48 hours.

It will be normal for the IIA to brief the force concerned on the current status of the investigation, usually not later than 28 days after the incident.

Documentation and disclosure

The originals of all documents and statements generated as a result of an incident must be handed over to the force professional standards department or IIA at the earliest opportunity.

All material obtained in the course of an investigation that may be relevant to the investigation must be retained for disclosure purposes.

Post incident responsibilities

The operational firearms commander:

  • remains operationally active until stood down
  • in the absence of the Tactical Firearms Commander, ensures that the scene is protected and that evidence is preserved until the arrival of the IIO
  • should ensure that the weapon(s) or perceived weapon of the subject is located and secured in situ, unless it is dangerous to do so
  • ensures a weapon safety check is carried out by officers
  • liaises with the IIO and, where necessary, with the scenes of crime officer, supervises the unloading of the weapons and identifies which weapon was carried by each officer.

The tactical firearms commander:

  • remains operationally active until stood down
  • ensures that the scene is protected and that evidence is preserved until the arrival of the IIO
  • considers the safety of the public and police personnel, and the immediate welfare of casualties
  • considers which officers are to be treated as principal officers (in conjunction with the ACPO officer or delegated senior officer, IIO and PIM
  • ensures the transfer of AFOs to the relocation point and assists in identifying principal officers
  • establishes the facts of what has taken place and ensures that all relevant information is recorded
  • informs the force control room and the strategic firearms commander of the incident
  • determines the rendezvous point for incoming resources
  • briefs and formally hands over to the IIO
  • briefs the strategic firearms commander.

The strategic firearms commander:

  • remains in a position to maintain command until the strategic intention of the operation is achieved, or they are relieved
  • continues to be available to the tactical firearms commander, if required
  • informs the ACPO officer or delegated senior officer of the incident
  • ensures all relevant information is recorded.

The ACPO officer (or delegated senior officer) is responsible for initiating:

  • the post incident investigation (including informing the IIA)
  • post incident management.

They also:

  • ensure that investigation and welfare procedures are implemented
  • appoint a PIM
  • appoint an IIO
  • ensure that the principal officers are identified
  • consider referral to the IIA
  • subject to referral to the IIA, agree the media strategy
  • ensure that all relevant information is recorded.

The IIO:

  • has early dialogue with the IIA to agree responsibilities and key actions
  • opens a policy log and ensures all relevant information and decisions are recorded, including issues of anonymity
  • agrees initial terms of reference with the ACPO officer or delegated senior officer
  • identifies and preserves evidence
  • ensures effective scene management
  • considers which officers are to be treated as principal officers (in conjunction with the ACPO officer or delegated senior officer, PIM and tactical firearms commander)
  • identifies and considers relevant national guidelines
  • liaises with the tactical firearms commander on initial action at the scene
  • liaises with chief officers on media policy
  • liaises with and consults the PIM
  • makes early contact with the appointed investigator from the IIA
  • carries out those enquiries deemed urgent and those that may assist in the collation of evidence which may be lost prior to the arrival of the investigator from the IIA
  • agrees initial objectives in relation to forensic evidence
  • makes early contact with the pathologist (where appropriate)
  • liaises with the scientific support coordinator.

The PIM:

  • opens a policy log and ensures all relevant information and decisions are recorded, including issues of anonymity
  • considers which officers are to be treated as principal officers (in conjunction with the ACPO officer or delegated senior officer, IIO and tactical firearms commander)
  • establishes immediate contact with the principal officers and ensures that they are given immediate support
  • considers whether to assign a member of the PIM team to each principal officer
  • advises all relevant members of staff that post incident procedures have been implemented and explains the PIM role
  • meets the IIO or any representative from the IIA
  • takes measures to ensure the physical and emotional wellbeing of the staff involved
  • considers the attendance of a doctor or health adviser
  • ensures access to telephones to enable officers to contact relatives or friends
  • informs relevant departments and agencies of the need to attend, if required (ie. the occupational health unit, doctor or FME and staff associations as appropriate)
  • ensures that any necessary forensic procedures are dealt with as early as possible and that officers are fully informed of the relevance of the procedures (eg, the seizure of exhibits)
  • secures early legal advice or representation if requested
  • maintains dialogue with the IIO and addresses issues with them, including press releases and the progress of the investigation, to update staff involved
  • advises principal officers of their responsibilities regarding the discussion of the incident with colleagues
  • facilitates the process in which officers provide initial accounts and ensures these (where made) are provided to the investigator.

Page last accessed 29 April 2017