How To Join The Armed Police – UK [Step By Step Guide]

  • Time to Read: 6 min.

Whether you are already a police officer, want to become one, or have a military background and are looking at transitioning onto the police, you may be wondering how to join the armed police in the UK. In this guide, we will take you through all of the steps that you will need to go through, in order to join the armed police.

Joining the armed policing unit is not something that any person should undertake lightly. The role brings with it a lot of additional risk and responsibility.

That having been said, it is a rewarding opportunity and is a really diverse unit to work with different training, and experiences that you potentially do not get in other areas of policing.

So, let’s get into how to join armed police.

Step By Step Guide To Joining The Armed Police – UK

Below we are going to take you through a step-by-step guide as to how to join the armed police in the UK. If you are already a police officer, depending on your length of service, you may be able to skip the first few steps. 

Please remember that different police forces may approach this in slightly different ways.

Step 1: Become A Police Officer

This may seem like an obvious step, however, you cannot become an ‘armed’ police officer, without first becoming a regular police officer.

You can not be recruited directly into the armed policing unit at this time.

This can be frustrating for persons with a military, or firearms background.

Over the years there have been discussions as to whether persons should be able to be recruited directly into armed units. Especially those with the relevant background/experience. 

For now, anybody wanting to join armed policing units will first need to become a police officer through the ‘normal’ routes, and later move across.

This is to ensure that every police officer has the same grounding and basic skill set. As a police officer, you can be deployed to anything at any time, so armed officers need the same ground as every other officer.

To become a police officer you will have to – 

Step 2: Complete Your Probationary Period

There are many different entry routes into policing these days. Depending on your entry route into policing, your probationary period may be either 2 or 3 years.

You will need to successfully complete your probationary period before you can apply for an armed policing role.

Step 3: Attend An Open Day

This is not a mandatory step, however, most forces will normally run an ‘open day’ before advertising available roles.

These provide anybody who is interested in joining armed policing in any capacity, an opportunity to go and ask any questions that they may have.

These questions can be in relation to the application process, or the role itself.

It is highly recommended that if you get the opportunity to go on one of these days, that you do.

You will get a better understanding of the role.

After gaining this understanding, it may be that you no longer wish to become an armed police officer. Or, it may spark your interest further.

Make sure you go armed (no pun intended) with questions about the role, the expectations, the training, the opportunities that are available beyond the initial role etc.

It goes without saying that you need to be polite to the persons running this event as one, or more of them may be making the decision as to whether you get a role or not.

Making a good impression may help you further down the line, and it certainly won’t harm you in any way.

Step 4: Complete An Application

When there is a vacancy, this will normally be advertised within the force as either an ‘expression of interest’, or a formal application.

An expression of interest is normally a less formal application method. You may be required to provide a short precis of why you are interested in/ would be suitable for the role.

If it is a more formal application, you may have to answer a number of questions in order to apply.

Step 5: Interview

The next step between you and joining an armed policing unit is an interview.

How formal this process is will vary by force, however, it will normally be 5-7 questions that are focused around the job role.

You can certainly expect your decision-making under pressure and your rationale around your decision-making to be tested.

Step 6: Fitness Test

You will have to complete a further fitness test (bleep test) to level 9.4.

Once in the unit, your fitness will be tested on a regular basis, so scraping by your fitness test may get you into the role, but you will need to maintain this to be able to keep up with the training requirements.

Please be mindful of this beforehand, the training to become an armed police officer is demanding, mentally and physically, and you do not want to be adding more pressure to yourself by worrying about your fitness levels.

Step 7: Further Vetting

It is likely that you will need a minimum of MV vetting and potentially as high as SC in order to work in a firearms unit.

This is due to the level of intelligence that you will potentially be privy to, before being deployed.

Some forces will do this before the firearms initial training course, others may do it after.

Step 8: Initial Firearms Training Course

Once you have made it through all of the above steps, you will have to undertake the initial firearms training course.

This course is normally around 10-12 weeks and is a combination of classroom based learning and the practical application of that training throughout the course.

The course has a number of elements to it that are pass/fail, it is not unusual for fewer than 50% of persons that start the course, to drop out at various stages throughout.

On successful completion of the course, you may be offered a post, or you may be put on a succession planning list, should a post become available in the near future.

For more on armed policing, check out the APP (Authorised Professional Practice) produced by the College of Policing.

Frequently Asked Questions

There you go, a step-by-step guide as to how to join armed policing units in the UK. Is this something that you are still interested in?

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