By Rob Banks, Crime Editor
Suffolk Police officers will be allowed to shoot criminals in a hugely controversial bid to save money.
The cash-strapped East Anglian force, which needs to save £200 million, believes giving constables a licence to kill will also be a massive deterrent to the county’s criminal fraternity.
But the plans by Suffolk Crime Commissioner Tim Passless were attacked by human rights campaigners as “barbaric” – while local UKIP activists said the measures did not go far enough.
Mr Passless will announce that from July 1, all officers will be issued with handguns, including voluntary community support beat officers.
Meanwhile, traffic cops will also get long-range sniper rifles so they can take down suspects fleeing by car.
Mr Passless will insist that police will be under strict instructions to shoot and kill only suspects they are “pretty sure” are guilty.
Armed police in Suffolk
“First there will be none of the endless paperwork required when we arrest someone.
“We’ll then free up the drain of packed police station cells, stop the need for many court cases, then ultimately slash the future prison population.
“It’s a no brainer that will save way more than our £200 million budget shortfall.”
Cops have already been testing firearms at a secret gun range in Martlesham, where they quickly ruled out issuing machine guns because of the risk of “collateral” damage.
One senior officer said: “We’re looking forward to it. This will bring back old-fashioned policing to our streets. Justice will be fair and swift.
“We expect one or two mistakes in the early days, but we ask the public to stick with us. Once the first few toe rags are out of the way, the public will be fully on board.”
The human rights group Don’t Shoot was furious. Spokesman Ivor Smith-Wesson said: “This is barbaric. If there has been a robbery, officers can shoot to kill anyone they have reason to believe is involved – even if that suspect is unarmed and running away.
“There’s also bound to be fatal mistakes because the force has cut back on expensive eye tests for its officers.”
But local UKIP councillor Major Anthony Pugh was full of praise for the new policy.
“This will make our streets safer, and free up loads of cash for our police force. It might even allow for the return of the Suffolk police Apache helicopter.
“If anything we’d support an even tougher crackdown, and hand these weapons to all immigration officers as well.”