11/20/2005

Two British officers shot reopening debate about arming police

By JENN WIANT
Associated Press Writer

LONDON- A gang of men shot and killed an unarmed policewoman and wounded another, and police arrested six people in connection with the crime Saturday, officials said.

The two women were shot when they tried to tackle three men who had robbed a travel agency in the northern city of Bradford, police said.

Constable Sharon Beshenivsky, a 38-year-old mother of three, died from a gunshot wound to the chest, despite wearing body armor. Beshenivsky had been a full time officer for nine months, police said. She was killed on her youngest daughter's fourth birthday.

Her colleague, Constable Teresa Milburn, 37, was being treated in a hospital for a shoulder wound. Milburn, who joined the force in April 2004, also wore body armor.

Before Friday, only two officers had been fatally shot in the last 10 years in England and Wales, one in 1995 and one in 2003, according to the Home Office.

London's Metropolitan Police said it had arrested five men and a woman in connection with the shooting, but provided no further details.

The shooting in the northern city of Bradford on Friday reignited a debate in Britain over whether front-line police officers _ many of whom are unarmed _ should be allowed to carry weapons.

"The police service is being outgunned on the streets of Britain day and night," said police officer Norman Brennan, director of the group Protect the Protectors.

Jan Berry, chairwoman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said she doubted that arming police officers would make them safer.

"Even if we armed every single police officer in this country that doesn't mean criminals aren't going to carry firearms," she told Sky News television.

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