Gun injuries soar as police 'experts' blast themselves and colleagues by mistake By MARTIN SMITH - More by this author » Last updated at 00:13am on 16th March 2008 http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/pages...ews.html?in_article_id=535071&in_page_id=1770 The number of armed police officers accidentally shooting themselves – and other colleagues – has soared in the past five years. Now, nearly half of all injuries caused by police shootings are the result of officers blasting themselves or a colleague, often during bungled training and demonstrations. Since 2003, there have been seven incidents in which armed police injured themselves or a fellow officer due to the careless handling of a gun, compared to just four in the previous 12 years. The disturbing statistics call into question the competence and training of the 6,700 officers authorised to carry firearms in the 43 police forces in England and Wales. Recent incidents include a diplomatic protection officer shooting himself in the leg, and a sharpshooter who blew the top off his thumb. The details are revealed under the Freedom of Information Act. But while injuries to firearms officers have increased, there has been no corresponding rise in incidents in which the members of the public are shot. Figures obtained from 29 forces reveal that from January 2003 to September 2007 there were 21 members of the public killed or injured in operational incidents – while a further seven police and staff were wounded in shooting accidents, a quarter of the total. But from January 2006 to September 13, 2007, when five members of the public were shot dead and two injured by armed police, five officers or police staff also suffered bullet wounds. The forces where staff have suffered accidental injuries since 2003 are the Metropolitan Police, where there were four incidents, and one each in Sussex, Thames Valley and West Mercia. Before an accidental injury in November 2003, the last accidental wounding of a colleague by a police marksman was in 1997. Gill Marshall-Andrews, chair of the Gun Control Network, said: "The lesson is that people get injured when there are guns around – even when the gun user is as highly trained and specialist as a police firearms officer." Officers authorised to carry firearms must complete a two-week training course that includes the use of the standard police-issue Glock 17 self-loading pistol, basic firearms tactics and target identification. But most of the time is spent on the ranges learning shooting skills and weapon handling. The number of occasions in which firearms are deployed by police has increased dramatically – in 2002, guns were authorised on 13,991 operations, but last year that figure rose to 18,053. How officers have been wounded Recent accidents involving police firearms include: • A civilian control room operator was shot in the abdomen during a firearms awareness course in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, last year. A Thames Valley Police firearms officer had been showing staff his Glock pistol, unaware it was loaded. • A Sussex police officer accidentally shot a 48-year-old PC in the body at the range at Gatwick police station in August 2007. Body armour saved him from serious injury. • A trainee firearms officer shot a Met instructor in the thigh as he was setting up a target in a mock-up of a night-time alley in 2003. • A diplomatic protection officer in Central London shot himself in the leg getting into a car in September 2007. • A firearms officer from West Mercia Police shot himself in the leg and foot in January 2006 after his gun became caught in his clothing. • An airport security officer from the Met shot the top of his thumb off when he put it in front of his MP5 sub-machine gun during training in 2005.