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This report examines the weapons and equipment generally at the disposal of law enforcement officers in several countries around the world. It also provides, for each of these countries, a brief overview of the rules governing the use of weapons by law enforcement officers. Precise and reliable information on the weapons and equipment of some countries’ police forces was often difficult to find.

A comparative summary and bibliography is provided.

Full Report (PDF, 101KB).

Argentina

The Federal Police in Argentina is an armed civil force that carries out the functions of security and judicial police derived from the police power responsibilities assigned to the federal government. Weapons acquired for national and provincial police are marked identifying the entity owning the weapon and are considered war weapons for the exclusive use of police forces.

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Australia

General duty federal and state police officers in Australia carry pistols, OC (pepper) spray, batons, and handcuffs.  Such officers in most states and territories also have access to Tasers following various trials and reviews. In special units, high-powered rifles, armored vehicles, and drone technology may be used.  Federal and state criminal and policing legislation contains provisions related to the use of force by police, requiring that the force used be reasonably necessary in the circumstances.

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Brazil

In Brazil, a constitutional principle provides that federal, state, and municipal police forces are charged with the duty of preserving public order and the security of persons and property, which must be funded by their respective budgets. Federal law defines restricted firearms, ammunition, accessories and equipment suitable for military or law-enforcement use only. Public safety officers are required to use at least two other non-lethal weapons before firing any firearm.

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Canada

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is Canada’s national police force. It provides federal, provincial, and municipal police services, and has contracted its services to a number of provinces and municipalities. Reports indicate that Canadian police agencies at all levels both receive donations of surplus military equipment and vehicles and directly purchase military-style items. Generally, police are authorized to use force within the framework of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canada’s Criminal Code. In addition there are regulations, policies, and frameworks for the use of weapons at the federal and provincial levels.

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China

Weapons the Chinese police may be equipped with consist of mandatory and optional items. Mandatory items include batons, handcuffs, tear gas ejectors, and flashlights. Optional items include police knives, guns, and anti-stab vests. In practice, most Chinese police officers are not equipped with firearms, as gun-related crimes are deemed rare because of the country’s strict gun control laws.

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Estonia

The Estonian Police is comprised of the State Police Force, Border Guard, and Immigration Service. This joint entity is the largest state institution, which is highly trusted by the public. The State Police Force is funded through a national appropriations process, and military-type equipment is used. The application of firearms by police is limited and strictly regulated by national legislation. Military-type weapons cannot be transferred to the municipal (local) police.

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France

In France, members of the National Police and the Gendarmerie have access to an array of weapons, which includes handguns and various non-lethal weapons. Municipal police forces are not always armed, and there are strict restrictions on the types of weapons that they are allowed to carry. Law enforcement officers may only use their weapons under certain circumstances, and any death as a result of the use of lethal force by law enforcement automatically triggers an investigation.

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Greece

The Greek Police has jurisdiction over the entire territory of Greece and operates under its own rules and disciplinary code. The types of weapons and other equipment used by the Greek Police to fulfill their duties are governed by a decree that is not published in the Official Gazette of Greece and thus not made publicly available. The use of lethal and nonlethal force by the Greek Police is governed by law. Human rights organizations have published reports on the excessive use of force and other human rights violations by the Greek Police, especially against refugees, migrants, Roma, and other vulnerable groups.

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Israel

The Israel Police operates as Israel’s national police force and reports to the Ministry of Public Security. The use of weapons is strictly regulated by a special order that limits police use of firearms to cases where other methods of response are not possible. Information on the types of weapons and equipment used by the Israel Police has not been identified at this time.

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Italy

Italian legislation regulates the type of weaponry that may be used by the police to control and restore public order according to the weapons’ features and the circumstances of their use. The use of weapons by the police must be adequate and proportionate to the requirements posed by the protection of the public order and safety, the prevention and punishment of crime, and other institutional duties. The Criminal Code exempts police personnel from criminal responsibility when they use their weapons in the line of duty.

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Mexico

Mexico’s police force is comprised of federal, state, and municipal police.  Mexico’s Law on Firearms and Explosives provides a list of the weapons that only Mexico’s military may use. Mexico’s Department of Defense, however, may authorize the use of war weapons by government agencies at the federal, state, or municipal level provided that he need for the use of such weapons is justified.

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Netherlands

The Dutch police are standardly equipped with a truncheon, pepper spray, and a 9x19 mm semiautomatic service weapon. They may also be authorized to use long batons, handcuffs, a coupling device, a safety vest, and aftercare resources in the use of pepper spray. Units involved in carrying out arrests have explosives, noise and smoke grenades, stun guns, grenade launchers and CS gas canisters, semiautomatic and automatic firearms, repeating firearms, and pulsating weapons. The use of weapons by the police is regulated by a set of rules that specify the circumstances under which each type of weapon is to be used.

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New Zealand

Police in New Zealand are not routinely armed while on general duty. Handguns and rifles, as well as Tasers and ballistic vests, are securely locked in cabinets within police vehicles and may be accessed following authorization from a supervisor. Various statutory and police-issued rules apply to the use of firearms and other force by police. These emphasize that the least amount of force necessary to achieve a purpose should be used.

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Portugal

In Portugal, internal security functions are performed by various police forces. The Portuguese laws researched for this report do not list what individual weapons, equipment, or materials are used by federal, local, or special police forces. The use of firearms is allowed as an extreme measure, only when absolutely necessary and when less dangerous means have proved ineffective, and provided that their use is proportionate to the circumstances.

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Russian Federation

Russian police are funded through the national budget and their acquisition of equipment, including military-grade weapons, is regulated by legislation. Firearms are purchased via the regular government procurement process. Federal legislation defines rules for the application of firearms by police officers, which appear to be too restrictive from the police point of view. Several bills aimed at expanding the right of police officers to use firearms were recently introduced in the legislature.

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South Africa

Weapons and equipment issued to members of the South African Police Service vary depending on the specialization of the police unit and the event in question. It appears that officers carrying out routine police duties carry pepper spray, a 9mm Z88/Beretta pistol, and an R5 assault rifle.
A number of statutes and police regulations govern questions of use of force and weapons. All laws place great emphasis on the use of the minimum amount of force necessary to deal with incidents, and permit the use of deadly force only in limited, dangerous situations.

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Spain

In Spain, Civil Guard members and officers of the National Police are allowed to use short and long firearms as provided by License A of the Regulation on Arms. Police officers may use arms only in situations of grave risk to their lives or the lives of others, and only in circumstances posing a serious risk to public safety, while meeting the proportionality and reasonability standards of behavior applicable to the police and security forces.

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United Kingdom

The use of firearms in the commission of crimes remains relatively low in the United Kingdom. Given the low incidence of criminal activity involving these weapons, the police forces are generally not armed during the course of their work. There are specialist firearms officers who may be authorized to carry weapons, and they must operate under the strict confines of the law. These weapons are rarely fired, with only five discharged in 2011–12.

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Council of Europe

Police weapons policy is a matter of national law for the forty-seven Member States of the Council of Europe. The 2001 European Code on Police Ethics, prepared by the Council of Europe, contains nonbinding recommendations on police activities. Case law of the European Court of Human Rights has set standards on police action during interrogation, detention, and peaceful assembly, and prohibits the use of torture.

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Last Updated: 07/24/2020