Frontline officers will be ‘routinely armed’ for the first time to respond to terror attacks in rural parts of Britain, under plans revealed by police.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council is considering the step for remote areas of England and Wales where it would be too expensive to have fully trained firearm units on standby.
Discussions came after it emerged there was a lack of firearm officers in England and Wales, despite a recruitment drive raising the number of specialists by 1,351, to nearly 6,500 in the last two years.
In the wake of a string of deadly Islamist terror attacks in Europe, the Home Office pledged £143 million to boost police capability against national terror threats and increase the number of counter-terrorism specialist firearms officers (CTSFO) and armed response vehicles (ARV).
Simon Chesterman, the national lead for armed policing, said: “We value policing by consent and we are not an armed police service. But if there some gaps in the amount of protection we are able to deliver to the public, then we have to think of some innovative ways of filling those gaps.”
Britons back arming police https://t.co/5VKRaJOIHm
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While Islamic radicals who carried out the London Bridge terror attack last June were shot dead in under ten minutes, Mr. Chesterman noted there are a number of police forces covering areas such as Cornwall which have places much more difficult to reach.
“We have got to be thoughtful and methodical about this and get the right response,” he said, adding he was reluctant to put the prospect of routine arming on the table but that police need to be able to tackle threats.
Across the British media, the plans are being reported as “highly controversial”, as they would overturn the nation’s long-standing tradition of unarmed policing, with less than 10 per cent of officers currently trained to use firearms.
However, mass migration in recent years has contributed to a growing threat of terror across western Europe to the point that many of its nations, including Sweden, are now flagged to would-be tourists as likely targets for radicals.
Britain was hit by a string of deadly Islamist attacks last year including the Manchester Arena bombing which left 22 people dead and 59 injured after a Libyan targeted children and teenagers at a pop concert.