POLICE officers should only be moved into firearms squads if their original post is backfilled, it has been warned.

Craig O’Leary, chairman of Thames Valley Police Federation, said he expected an 'argument' for more police officers to be transferred into armed units, but warned their posts should be taken up by new recruits to avoid gaps in the service.

His comments come after the results of a national survey about armed police, in which just over a third of officers supported the idea of routine arming

PC O'Leary said: "We’ve just about met the uplift that we got a couple of years back, and we finally got to the number that we wanted.

"I think there’ll be an argument now for further uplift in that. But from my perspective as chairman of the police federation, only on the basis that we’re going to be able to recruit to backfill those posts that are going to firearms.

"If you take another 50 officers out of our current system then that presents a problem, unless we’re going to start recruiting in higher numbers.

"It’s all well and good uplifting, but unless you’re recruiting in vast amounts, then those officers are just coming from the already overstretched beat teams, response teams, that are out there on the streets.

"You’re exacerbating the current issues that we’ve got now.”

Thames Valley Police have previously said it was 'actively recruiting' and training additional firearms officers following the Prime Minister's announcement last year.

The force says it 'continually reviews' the number of its Taser-trained officers, based on 'threat, harm and risk'.

The federation has suggested there are 204 armed officers – up from 170 in 2016.

In 2010 the force had 193 armed officers. After terror attacks in Manchester and London earlier this year, armed police officers were deployed to the streets of Oxford to reassure the public.

At his annual meeting, Thames Valley Police chief constable Francis Habgood said the national terror threat level had risen from severe to critical twice in the past six months and four times since 2006.

He added demand levels had gone up 'quite considerably' with more than 1,000 999 calls every day and over three thousand on 101.

Mr Habgood said; "One of the decisions we made about 18 months ago was to increase the numbers of firearms officers that we had in Thames Valley.

"I'm really pleased we made that decision. There was no additional money for that, but this was from existing resources.

"But it meant when we did go up to the critical threat level we had sufficient resources out on the streets and the response from the public was fantastic."

PC O'Leary said asking officers whether they wanted to be armed was a 'relevant' question due to the 'changing picture' in society.