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Keeping people safe is at the core of the Armed Response Unit (ARU) and the team provides 24/7 cover to every district in Northern Ireland.

Some of the people that the team deal with are involved in crime and a significant number of others will be suffering from mental illness or will be experiencing a crisis in their lives, posing a danger to themselves and others.


All officers in the ARU have had to complete and pass a rigorous selection process and nationally approved authorised firearms course. The firearms course provides the officers with the skills to deal with armed suspects on foot, vehicle and search for armed suspects in buildings and open areas. 

During the course officers will also have to successfully complete the police advanced drivers course, the tactical pursuit course, advanced first aid and fitness tests.


As well as being equipped with conventional firearms, armed response officers are equipped with various less lethal technologies including AEP and Taser, but the preferred method is good verbal communication to resolve the issue peacefully. All this enables the officers to stabilise and control firearms incidents. 

The team has a fleet of performance vehicles as well as land rovers and armoured cars.

Photograph of Police Officer's vest

Additional Skills

In addition to dealing with firearms incidents, officers regularly use their skills in other aspects of policing and keeping people safe.

ARU provide method of entry to houses for Local Policing Teams dealing with concern for safety calls. Officers provide advanced first aid to members of the public on the street including CPR and carry oxygen and defibrillators.

Due to their experience of dealing with people who may be emotionally distressed, the Incident Control Centre regularly task ARU officers to conduct initial negotiations with vulnerable people threatening to commit self-harm until the arrival of negotiators.

The unit also provides support to districts and departments in their efforts to keep our communities safe through proactive operations.

Working with the Community

The Armed Response Unit believes in the importance of engaging with young people in our communities and have developed and delivered a ‘Guns and Knives Ruin Lives’ presentation.  

This is an educational programme for 12-18 year olds within youth clubs and schools across Northern Ireland which deals with the law, dangers and consequences of carrying knives or other weapons. The programme has ‘Keeping People Safe’ at its core and has been running for three years with great success.

The presentation explains the dangers and consequences of carrying weapons in a way that the age group understands. Officers have delivered this presentation to community groups and schools who do not normally have access to the police and in many cases, the unit have received requests for further presentations.