A CASE of rubber bullets has been picked up by a member of the public after being ‘misplaced’ by Cumbria Police.
Five baton rounds, which are traditionally used for riot control, were found by an office worker in a grass verge at Shap Road, Kendal, where they had been abandoned following ‘operations’ in the area.
A police spokeswoman was unable to say what the ‘operations’ had been, but said it was ‘not a training exercise’ and involved ‘tactical groups’.
“I think it’s horrendous,” said Dave Armstrong, managing director of Cox and Allen Building Contractors, whose employee handed the bullets in.
“If you were a shooting man and you left your cartridges and things lying around they’d be on you like a ton of bricks and you’d probably lose your licence.
“Then here we have five mystery pieces of kit just lying in the grass where anyone could have found them.”
Mr Armstrong said the case was initially discovered on Friday by two of his employees, who did not realise the significance of the cache.
They believed the case had fallen from a cyclist and left it in plain sight on a nearby wall, hoping someone would claim it.
On Tuesday another employee brought it to the attention of Mr Armstrong.
“I’ve never known the police attend so fast,” he said. “The bullets could have been discarded or dropped where kids play, or where they might have fallen into the wrong hands. You dread to think.”
According to the College of Policing, the batons are ‘attenuating energy projectiles’ which form part of the weapon system approved for use by the police service and the UK’s armed forces.
It is a ‘less lethal’ weapon but ‘has the potential for lethal consequences in certain circumstances’.
Paul Beavan, of Sedbergh Shooting Club, who used rubber bullets when he served in the army in the 1970s, said they could have been ‘very dangerous’.
“If someone had been messing about with them they could have ricocheted up and caused some damage,” he said.
“And if someone had a weapon to fire them with and shot them at close range you’d have a serious problem.”
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A spokesman for Cumbria Constabulary described the event as ‘an isolated incident of human error’ and said management advice would be given to the officers concerned.
Inspector Paul Telford, of Cumbria Constabulary, added that the weapons were ‘stable’ – and that efforts had been made ‘immediately’ to find them.
“I’m confident no one has been put at risk,” he said. “I have reviewed the measures in place to minimise the possibility of this happening again.”