Scottish Daily Mail

Why po­lice fear even higher toll if it hap­pens here

- By Chris Hobbs PO­LICE BORDER SE­CU­RITY EX­PERT

AS THE grotesque car­nage in Paris un­folded, most Bri­tish front­line po­lice of­fi­cers will have come to just one chilling con­clu­sion: the death toll in a sim­i­lar out­rage here would be many times greater. For while the French can throw hun­dreds of armed po­lice on to the streets of Paris within min­utes, and thou­sands within an hour or so, we sim­ply can’t.

Like a fire sweep­ing through an oc­cu­pied house, min­utes count if lives are to be saved in ter­ror­ist atroc­i­ties.

Not only do the gun­men have to be lo­cated, they also have to be con­tained and – if nec­es­sary – con­fronted. This can be done only by armed of­fi­cers.

In France, all 278,000 po­lice of­fi­cers carry guns. The cor­re­spond­ing fig­ure in Bri­tain is just 6,000, so the as­sur­ances from the Home Sec­re­tary, Theresa May, that pro­ce­dures are ‘in place’ to deal with rapidly mov­ing ter­ror­ist sit­u­a­tions are greeted with deep scep­ti­cism.

Most po­lice of­fi­cers at­tend­ing ter­ror­ist in­ci­dents are vir­tual spec­ta­tors un­til an armed re­sponse ve­hi­cle (ARV) can be sum­moned to the scene.

The lack of ARVs has caused real con­cern among of­fi­cers, par­tic­u­larly those in smaller, more ru­ral forces, who be­lieve they and the pub­lic are be­ing placed at in­tol­er­a­ble risk on a daily ba­sis.

One of­fi­cer from a county force told me that his near­est ARV would nor­mally be at least 20 min­utes away – of­ten even fur­ther. No need to imag­ine how much dam­age can be done in 20 min­utes by ter­ror­ists with au­to­matic weapons.

But forces who want to ex­pand their firearms teams are hav­ing dif­fi­culty re­cruit­ing in the wake of the high-pro­file po­lice shoot­ings of Azelle Rod­ney and Mark Dug­gan.

Al­though both men were armed crim­i­nals, the of­fi­cer who shot Rod­ney was tried (and ac­quit­ted) for un­law­ful killing and those in­volved in the Dug­gan shoot­ing were sub­jected to a three-and-a-half year in­quiry be­fore be­ing ex­on­er­ated.

Is it any won­der armed units are strug­gling to at­tract and re­tain good of­fi­cers?

Mean­while, claims that Bri­tain has ‘strong border con­trols’ smack of ut­ter com­pla­cency to of­fi­cers work­ing at our air and sea ports.

We may be an is­land na­tion but the thou­sands ar­riv­ing from war-torn re­gions in the backs of lor­ries and even pri­vate cars and car­a­vans show we are far from se­cure.

It would also be wrong to imag­ine that guns are not be­ing traf­ficked across our bor­ders. Theresa May’s cre­ation, the UK Border Force, has suf­fered cut­backs and re­or­gan­i­sa­tion. For­mer cus­toms of­fi­cers, who have been reluc­tantly ab­sorbed into it, are con­cerned that the im­por­ta­tion of firearms and com­po­nent parts of firearms is be­ing gravely ne­glected.

Many cus­toms of­fi­cers skilled in de­tect­ing smug­gled weaponry, have been, to their fury, de­ployed per­ma­nently to pass­port con­trols where, de­spite Home Of­fice de­nials, the pri­or­ity is still avoid­ing queues.

An­other very real threat em­anates from our pris­ons where ex­treme Mus­lim in­mates ex­er­cise huge in­flu­ence and where dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals have con­verted to the most vir­u­lent form of Is­lam.

Shortly be­fore re­tir­ing, I stud­ied some of th­ese in­di­vid­u­als: the prospect of them re­turn­ing to our streets chills my blood.

The sim­ple fact is Bri­tain’s po­lice – bril­liantly pro­fes­sional as they re­main – are spread far too thinly. A se­cu­rity re­view, or­dered by May, is cur­rently un­der way. Those on the front line hope that some­one will lis­ten to their views.

They are not hold­ing their breath.

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