Le Soir reports on Monday that police officers on patrol are equipped with a firearm in six out of ten police zones in Belgium. The daily newspaper bases this finding upon a response by the Minister for the Interior, Jan Jambon, to a question put by the deputy Paul-Olivier Delannois (PS).
Eighteen months after the entry into force of a new provision upon equipping police officers in this way, 121 of 188 police zones have neighbourhood police officers with individual weapons (a pistol and a baton) and collective weapons provision (including in particular semi-automatic handguns). Across the entire country, there are around 500 neighbourhood police officers at least (488 across 142 police zones, according to figures released by the Ministry of the Interior) with access to such weapons.
Le Soir further states that officers are only permitted to carry the equipment during their working hours, and certainly not 24 hours a day.
Before the Paris attacks, handguns and the telescopic baton were prohibited for police officers, unlike the case of detective sergeants. After November 15th, 2015, Jan Jambon had requested that all police officers be armed, owing to both the terrorist context and the vulnerability of neighbourhood police officers.
The Royal Decree of September 26th, 2016, around arming police officers, put a new perspective upon the issue. The right to carry weapons was then made subject to the proviso that those applying to do so received 120 hours of training as to how to bring such violent incidents to an end.