Police are criticised for deploying armed officers at Christmas market
Northumbria Police shared photos of armed officers smiling and posing with shoppers as they carried their weapons while guarding the traditional market in Newcastle.
Since the pictures went on the force's Facebook page on Friday, more than 2,400 people have commented.
The force explained the deployment, saying: "Don't be alarmed if you do see our armed officers, they are there purely for reassurance and to make people feel safe.
"These patrols have begun following the announcement from the Home Office last year that armed patrols would be stepped up across the country.
"Our FSU officers are just regular police at the end of the day and if you have any concerns make sure you go and have a chat."
But the policy drew criticism on Facebook, with one person saying it looked like the "Americanisation" of the British police.
One woman wrote: "Well I've got news for you, Northumbria Police; seeing heavily armed police officers at a Christmas market would NOT make me feel safe - quite the opposite.
"We do NOT NOT NOT want armed police to become the general rule on our streets. More weapons = more danger, not less.
"We do NOT want to end up like America."
And a man posted: "Blimey, what are you guys thinking? I know you need a firearms unit, but there's no call to wave guns about in public.
"If they want to meet Joe Public, they can leave their guns at home. Terrorism is there to make people feel afraid, and responding to it with public displays of firepower is a terrible idea."
But one man responded, saying: "These officers are here for public protection. The world isn't the utopia we'd like it to be unfortunately. This is the real world boys and girls.
"If a terrorist armed with a firearm or knife started attacking shoppers, the people criticising wouldn't be moaning, I'm sure.
"It seems the atrocities in Paris and Nice are swiftly forgotten by some. Well done Northumbria Police. Stay safe."