Crawford leads a raid on a suspected gang of armed robbers. Due to the possibility that they may still be armed, the Dock Green officers are also issued with firearms. Dixon, in his role as desk sergeant, is precise in ensuring that all the correct procedures are carried out before a single gun is issued. But events go seriously wrong and an unarmed man is shot and later dies, which means that Crawford and the others find themselves under investigation.
Apart from Crawford, Det. Con Cox (Peter Tilbury), Sgt. Wills (Nicholas Donnelly) and PC Dewar (David Masterman) are the other officers issued with firearms. Before the operation, we’re given some indication about how two of them may react. Wills is an experienced firearms officer and so it can be assumed he will be cool under fire. Cox is much less experienced (he’s only ever fired a gun on the training ground) whilst Dewar is an unknown factor.
The raid takes place at night-time and is effectively filmed. The darkness makes it harder to understand what happened when the fatal shot was fired (which was obviously the intention).
Part of the conflict in Firearms Were Issued is driven by the different policing styles of Crawford and Dixon. The younger man has a willingness to bend or break the rules in order to achieve the right result – something which is anathema to Dixon. This is highlighted when Crawford attempts to leave the station to try and contact the informant who phoned in the original tip off. Dixon’s quite firm – if he leaves the station then he’ll have to let the appropriate people know. It’s a nice character moment for both, especially Peter Byrne.
Dixon is an old school, by-the-book copper – and a major part of the character’s appeal has to be Jack Warner himself. Since he’d been playing the part so long, he’d become a virtual embodiment of “the good old days”. But this nostalgia for better, simpler times gone by isn’t always a good thing. It may have provided reassurance for a section of the audience at the time, but in the decades to come it was probably a key factor in the less than flattering readings we’ve seen the series receive.
But though the episodes on the first DVD have been more diverse than the reactionary Dixon of legend, it’s fair to say that the resolution of Firearms Were Issued will give critics of the series some ammunition. It’s a much less progressive message than, say, Sounds, but although it’s an eyebrow raising conclusion it’s far from the norm (based on the small sample available anyway).
The investigation is quite intense and it leads to some decent character conflict between the Dock Green officers and Det. Chief Supt. Donovan (Percy Herbert). The officers are insistent that the gang were armed but an intensive search fails to locate any weapons. Did one of them shoot an unarmed man? And if so, why?
Percy Herbert’s an intimidating presence as Donovan (he had a long career, including notable appearances in films such as Bridge on the River Kwai and The Guns of Navarone). The versatile actor/writer Peter Tilbury made the second of his two appearances as Cox whilst the ever reliable Cyril Shaps played the somewhat shifty Green.
Whether Kendrick was armed or not, when the fatal shot was fired he was running away. But Dixon sums it up as follows.
The four men who went out that night had every reason to believe that they were going to deal with armed and dangerous men. Later, the report for ballistics confirmed that Sgt. Wills had shot Kendrick. An inquest was held and the jury returned a verdict of justifiable homicide. I think I’d have done the same as Dewar and Wills in those circumstances.