Is It Time To Arm The British Police?
The question is really aimed at my former colleagues but please feel free to join in whoever you are.
The world has changed after Paris 2015. First Charlie Ebdo and the accompanying attacks at the beginning of the year. Then, tragically, Friday the 13th.
The events unfolding within the Bataclan Theatre must have been horrific and unthinkable when relayed to the Gendarmes by the survivors that managed to escape. Faced with horrendous consequences for not doing anything the French launched s rapid strike on the theatre in a desperate attempt to rescue what they could from an unthinkable situation. I can only imagine imagine how the cops on the street and their leaders must have felt, and they had very little time in which to act, it seems that theatre-goers were being murdered one by one.
How would we have dealt with a similar scenario? It does seem increasingly likely that we might have to, someday, somewhere.
We have Armed Police available, every Force (I believe) now fields a number of Armed Police in ARVs routinely, 24 hours per day. These men and women are fantastically well trained and superbly equipped, they will put their lives on the line at a moment’s notice in an attempt to resolve whatever problem they are faced with. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that our armed cops would have done their very best to resolve the ‘Bataclan’ scenario if they were faced with it. Their courage and professionalism is right up there with the very best, no question.
The biggest problem, as I see it, is that even if you can find a senior officer with the balls to use the assets at his/her disposal, how long would it take to muster SUFFICIENT resources at the scene to be effective.
In this respect the French had it easy, their Gendarmes are routinely armed, and there seemed to be plenty of them available. An ‘elite’ unit was on scene very quickly.
In the UK we have a Chancellor intent on slashing budgets, a Prime Minister who gives every impression of an ostrich with its head stuck in the sand and a Home Secretary and her entourage who seem to be intent on destroying the very fabric of British a Policing, and by extension our ability to mount an effective First Line response.
Systems are in place across the country to move suitably equipped and trained Police Officers to wherever they are needed. The system is tried and tested and it works. Where it is weak is when that help is needed NOW. We can move cops from Manchester to London for example, but the two main issues are a) it takes time, and b) in the initial stages it leaves behind a void, which, initially, represents a vulnerability to a secondary attack.
The victims trapped in a nightclub being shot one by one, wouldn’t be terribly reassured to be told “help is on way, it will be here in 2 or 3 hours”. They needed appropriate help IMMEDIATELY.
As a cop I never wanted to be armed. I never for one moment wanted ‘my’ Met to be paramilitary, routinely armed to the teeth and visible everywhere.
However, two things have changed since I was serving
1). The face of International Terrorism has changed. 9/11 happened in the dying months of my career. 7/7 after I had retired. The events in Paris and elsewhere now getting more frequent and moving closer to home.
2). The face of Policing has changed since I retired. The Home Secretary’s ‘Reforms’ have made it slmost inevitable that we could not mount an Immediate Response consisting of anything other than Cannon Fodder. Mrs May has insisted on ruthlessly cutting budgets and resources. In response PCCs have sold off Police Stations by the score. The necessary resources are fewer and further away.
DeadBadgerShire actually consists of 3 large, rural counties. To be honest I don’t actually know how many ARVs are available to the Force at any given moment, but even with the advantage of blue lights and sirens it would take a while to get them all together to mount an Initial Response. Even in London they would encounter similar problems.
In theory we can call on the Army, but they are also being systematically reduced, many are already deployed abroad somewhere, and where will the next attack on UK soil be? It doesn’t have to be London, there are plenty of international airports to choose from for example.
So what do we want? Is it time to complete the change in British Policing and, at the very least, train all of our Front Line cops, even if they are not routinely armed they will be trained and available to be armed. Do we put firearms and trained officers in ALL of our Response Vehicles, locked in the boot etc until needed? Or do we go the way of our Continental Cousins and just arm all of our Cops on the streets 24 hours a day?
I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but I’m quite happy to provoke a debate. Cop, Ex Cop, Member of Public, what is your view.
All that I think I know is that in the modern world Islamic State and Dixon of Dock Green probably can’t co-exist.
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