CHICAGO -- A British police officer on a tour of Chicago's police headquarters left the building's crime lab saying, "I didn't know there were that many weapons in the world."
Constable Ian Yarham, who doesn't carry a gun on the job, said there were "shotguns, rifles, all the handguns you could think of. It's incredible."
Constable Yarham was one of four British "bobbies" who visited police headquarters recently and left with the impression that a police officer's lot was very different here from in Britain.
"The system of policing is different. We're not gun-oriented. We police with the consent of the community. Our style tends to be less aggressive, less assertive," said Chief Inspector Tony Rogers said.
Chief Inspector Rogers runs the Cambridgeshire Constabulary, which covers a population of about 900,000, including the city of Cambridge. The other three bobbies are constables in Cambridgeshire.
Officers there generally aren't allowed to carry firearms, and "I wouldn't want to carry a gun even if I had the opportunity," Chief Inspector Rogers said.
"I'd be more dangerous with a gun than anything," Constable Yarham said. "I wouldn't know how to use one, and I couldn't stand loud bangs.I'd be more likely to shoot myself."
The Cambridgeshire bobbies said there were four homicides in their area last year, and "that was a big year."
In 1989, there were 627 homicides in all of England and Wales, with a total population of about 50 million. In comparison, there were 849 homicides last year in Chicago, with a population of fewer than 3 million.
Inside the crime lab, the bobbies saw an impressive display of firearms confiscated by Chicago police: almost every type of handgun imaginable, as well as submachine guns, automatic rifles and sawed-off shotguns.
Because of the high number of homicides and shootings here, Chicago police have great expertise in firearms comparison and identification, said Constable Gil Boyd. "It's far superior to our forensic science," he said.
But then again, his department doesn't get much practice -- none of the four Cambridgeshire homicides last year involved firearms, the bobbies said. Instead, victims were strangled or stabbed.
"There are far more serious problems here," said Constable Alan Paul, the fourth bobby, who specializes in crime prevention.
Constable Paul and the others were accompanied by the chief investigator of the Rosemont (Ill.) Police Department, which is acting as host to the bobbies.
The British officers visited the Chicago area in connection with Chicagoland Home and Flower Show's English Gardens exhibit.