Nick Clegg has cautioned against any knee-jerk call to arm police in the wake of the deaths of two women officers, stressing that such a move could damage the relationship between the police and the communities they serve.
The Deputy Prime Minister said there would be "considerable risks" to routinely arming officers, and that it was crucial not to take snap decisions over such a contentious issue in an "instant way".
He said: "I don't think this is the time to rush to instant judgments.
"We have a long tradition in this country, which is a great tradition, of policing in the community, of the police being part of the public and the public supporting and giving their consent to the police.
"I think if we were, in an instant to, in a sense, arm our police to the teeth so they become separate from the public, that would be quite a big change which would have considerable risks attached to it. I think it is the kind of thing that you need to look at very carefully and certainly not, even though I know emotions are running high, in an instant way after this terrible, terrible tragedy."
One of Britain's most senior police officers also warned against a rush to routinely arm officers following the tragedy.
The president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Hugh Orde, said: "Guns don't necessarily solve the problem. You only have to look at the American experience. Many colleagues in America are lost without even drawing their gun at close ranges."
Sir Hugh said it was the "clear view of the British police service from top to bottom" that officers prefer to be unarmed because the public dislikes constables bearing weapons.
But Paul Beshenivsky, whose wife Sharon was shot dead in Bradford during an armed robbery in 2005, said: "I think policing, as regarding going to scenes of crimes, should be monitored better, and I think police, in honesty, should be armed, walking into situations that they're not totally aware of."
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