Britain’s rural police officers could be “sitting ducks”during a terrorist situation, thanks to the scarcity of armed police response units across the country, a Police Federation chairman has said.
The number of British armed officers has fallen by a fifth over the last five years, leading to warnings that, while major cities such as London have sufficient coverage, much of Britain does not.
Che Donald, who represents the 5,647 firearms officers across the country admitted: “Currently there are not enough firearms officers who could deal with an incident in quite a lot of areas of Britain”
While the terrorist threat to many rural areas is low, some isolated units cover potential targets such as nuclear power plants.
Mr Donald’s comment has the support of Hampshire Police Chief John Apter, who told the BBC: “Being realistic, if a firearms unit was coming from the middle of the county you are still talking about 30 miles away, you are not talking about a few minutes. There would be an understandable delay.
“If a firearms unit is the other side of the county they could be 70 miles away so you are talking a significant distance. So the only officers that you have available are unarmed and vulnerable officers and they are the officers that are saying to me that in a terrorist situation they would be sitting ducks.”
In April, the Prime Minister David Cameron announced that 1,500 more armed officers were to be stationed around the country in case of a Paris style attack. Although that attack claimed 130 lives, an investigation suggested that many more lives would have been lost had the Paris police not been able to deploy armed officers quickly and efficiently to bring down the terrorists.
However, French officers are routinely armed, unlike their British counterparts. Experts believe it takes three armed officers to neutralise the threat of one terrorist.