Police in Sheffield have been criticised for using armed officers to move on two homeless men who were sunbathing in the Peace Gardens.
The incident took place on Saturday, June 30, when two ‘obviously homeless’ men came into the popular leisure spot and sat down towards the edge of the grassed area.
Eyewitnesses described the men as ‘clearly under the influence’ but otherwise ‘well behaved’. However, just a few minutes later, officers armed with automatic weapons came and told them to leave.
A woman who witnessed the scene and sent us the above photo, but who prefers to remain nameless, said: “It was a very relaxed atmosphere - very busy with lots of families with young children playing in the fountains.
“I don’t know if someone called the police but a few minutes later these armed police officers turned up. I can understand people being nervous but I was really surprised it was armed police that responded.”
“The one who fell asleep must have been terrified to wake up with someone pointing a machine gun at him.”
"It was lucky they were so meek and mild. If they had tried to do something, I don’t know what would have happened.”
The woman said she was under the impression that the Peace Gardens were a public place, and didn’t know the reason why the two men had been removed.
She added the incident also made her worry that armed police were being used more often in situations were unarmed officers would be more appropriate.
A spokesperson for South Yorkshire Police said: “Armed officers were on routine patrol in the Peace Gardens on Saturday 30 June, as part of the ongoing South Yorkshire Police operation to reassure and protect the public at crowded places.
“Whilst engaging with the parents and many children present, the officers were approached by a parent who expressed her concern about the behaviour of two men who appeared to be under the influence of drink or drugs. It was reported that several children were upset and frightened by the men's behaviour. As a result, officers requested that the men move on and they duly obliged, without incident.
“Our city centre policing teams are committed to working with partner organisations to reduce the pockets of criminality and anti-social behaviour which have been identified by local residents and businesses as a priority in the area.”