Customs chiefs rule out arming women
By ANDY GILBERT
WOMEN Customs officers will not be armed, a study by the department's top officers has ruled, despite a decision by the police to arm their female officers.
However, the department has not ruled out arming its 350 female officers in the future and said the issue would be open to further consideration if needs or opinions changed.
'On the operational side, we don't think there is any real need to arm our women officers,' said Deputy Commissioner for Customs and Excise Lawrence Li Shu-fai.
'The senior officers in the department have looked into the issue and feel there's no need to change policy.' The decision by Customs contrasts with the police force's recent decision.
All female police recruits will be required to undergo firearms training and be expected to carry arms in the future. Serving WPCs will be invited for firearms training 'in due course'.
The police decision followed a lengthy debate which involved discussions on issues such as equality and discrimination.
However, Mr Li said differences between the way Customs and the police operated meant it was unfair to compare the need to arm women.
'We operate differently to the police,' he said. 'Our officers don't have to patrol a beat and on operations we always act in groups. It was not felt necessary to arm the women when the men in the groups are already armed.' About 3,000 operational officers have the option of carrying Smith and Wesson .38 revolvers, but not all exercise that right.
Both male and female recruits train with firearms, but only male officers continue training throughout their career.
Mr Li said arming women officers would involve an expense which the department felt was not justified.
He said women would not be consulted about the issue until the department was considering arming them.
Customs officers have also ruled out using converting to new open holsters.