Police in Britain have been put on high alert and warned they could be targeted in jihadi terror attacks following the uncovering of a plot against officers in Belgium this week.
The threat level against officers has been raised to severe, the highest ever level, with police chiefs considering equipping more officers with Taser stun guns. There remain no plans to arm police officers, however.
The measures come after two suspected terrorists were killed in the Belgian town of Verviers on Thursday after police raided their layer above a bakery. Among items recovered were police uniforms and radios, suggesting a plan to impersonate police officers and possibly even kidnap and murder one.
The threat level against British police was previously raised to substantial in October, but has now gone up another level following assessment by intelligence services. It is now at the second-highest level possible. One source told the Guardian: “We are at the maximum point of awareness before something happens.”
Although firearms have been used in terror attacks in continental Europe, security analysts believe attacks in Britain would be more likely to use knives or machetes against police. In March 2013, soldier Lee Rigby was hacked to death by two jihadis who attacked him outside his barracks in Woolwich, east London.
Other measures to protect officers will likely include going out in pairs and travelling to and from work in plain clothes.
Yesterday, Britain’s highest ranking anti-terror police officer, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, said: “We are also considering what further measures we might put in place to enhance the security of police officers, given some of the deliberate targeting of the police we have seen in a number of countries across Europe and the world. Chief constables across the country are reviewing how to strengthen the protection of their officers from such attacks.”
Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, added: “The level of extreme terrorism we are facing on an international scale cannot be underestimated and the police service and its security partners are doing all they can.
“Police officers face life-threatening risks on a daily basis and are prepared to do so fully aware of the risks involved. As a service we are regularly assessing what we do in order to adapt to the changing and challenging issues we face.”