SENIOR police officers will go ahead with plans to arm policewomen, but have not yet decided exactly how to introduce the scheme. It is understood the next intake of female recruits, scheduled for next year, will be required to carry arms. Under a detailed recommendation to the Chiefs of Staff, believed to have been largely sanctioned at a meeting yesterday, it was argued that all new recruits should be obliged to carry firearms. It was suggested this should be conducted in a trial programme. Sources said it was possible that approval would also be given for women recruits now at the Police Training School to undergo a more intensive form of firearms training. It was suggested women officers in emergency units might also have a role in the trial. An official announcement will be made today. It is expected to outline the rationale behind the move by the force's top policy-making body and address the difficulties of equipping women officers. Sources say it will be more than 18 months before women are seen to be regularly carrying guns on the streets. The police spokesman, Chief Superintendent Eric Lockeyear, refused to comment on the meeting. Commissioner Eddie Hui Ki-on last month disclosed the force was considering what sort of weapon to give women, reflecting a widely held view that standard issue .38 revolvers are too heavy for female officers to safely handle. However, it is understood a trial would still involve the current firearms. It is believed senior officers did not discuss the difficult issue of how to determine the best way to arm and train serving female officers. Serving women officers will not be forced to carry weapons. Mr Hui is a supporter of arming women officers but is conscious of the impact it may have on recruit applications. He has said the debate over arming women may have contributed to a 30 per cent decline this year in the number of women seeking entry to the profession. Today's expected confirmation of the trial programme will be seen as a small but significant move in a painful policy crawl. In the past few months, senior ranking police have variously expressed views on the subject of women and firearms against a backdrop of rising agitation and frustration. Indeed, the most significant pronouncement came in July when Deputy Commissioner (Management) Peter So Lai-yin all but conceded the arming of women officers would proceed. 'It is not proposed to require serving women officers to carry arms unless they are willing to do so,' he told the South China Morning Post. 'However, it is possible that, in future, only those willing to carry arms will be recruited.'