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    UK Police Chiefs Consider Arming Officers in Rural Areas to Combat Terrorists

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    Debates about changing the very nature of British constables, where 90 percent of officers are unarmed, get heated, as specially trained forces are understaffed and can’t respond promptly to terror threats in many areas. The idea of arming officers doesn’t find vast support among the police.

    Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman, who is in charge of armed policing on the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), has revealed that the police leadership is contemplating routinely providing regular officers with guns in rural areas. This option is seen as a way out of the current situation, where trained counterterrorism forces are unable to reach many distant areas in the UK.

    According to The Guardian, citing plans presented to the police leadership, before regular officers get handguns they are to have two weeks’ training. Over this period constables are supposed to learn how to handle weapons as well as some basic technics. They will also be required to complete two days’ annual practice to refresh their qualifications. The armed officers are supposed to respond to possible terror threats when more experienced teams are unable to promptly manage an emergency.

    READ MORE: Europe's 'Huge Black Market' of Fake Passports Raises Terror Threat in Britain

    The discussion has reportedly been ongoing since 2017 following terror attacks including rampages in London’s Westminster and Manchester. Prior to this outburst, former Prime Minister David Cameron assigned extra-funding to counter terror in the UK in response to the 2015 Paris attacks. The number of counterterrorism specialist firearms officers (CTSFOs) has been boosted along with other measures, but security services still lack 100 personnel to reach the government’s target. The number of armed response vehicles (ARVs), which let officers equipped with semi-automatic rifles, handguns, Tasers and other weapons patrol the areas round-the-clock, has been also increased by 25 percent in England and Wales.

    However, Chesterman said, cited by The Independent, that although ARVs can respond within 10 minutes in urban areas, more remote sites are hardly covered. But he says that only a small number of police forces consider the possibility of handing beat officers guns.

    “The position of police chiefs nationally is that we value the unarmed nature of British policing, policing by consent, and want to continue it,” he says.

    Now about 10 percent of British policemen carry firearms round 90 percent, according to The Independent. The poll by the Police Federation showed that only a third of staff supported routine arming.

    Opposed to this stance, commentators on Twitter seem to like the idea.

    ​Voices against the move are also heard.

    Wave of Terror in UK

    In 2017 the UK suffered five deadly attacks. In March 2017, a man drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London and attempted to enter the Westminster Palace grounds; in May, an explosion went off at the Manchester Arena at the end of a concert by US singer Ariana Grande.

    Two other attacks took place in London in June, both of them involving vehicles that rammed into passers-by. In September, a bomb exploded in a London tube train. The explosion had occurred at the Parsons Green tube station leaving dozens injured.

    On May 14, the head of the UK Security Service (MI5), Andrew Parker, said that 12 Islamist terror plots had been thwarted in the United Kingdom in the last 12 months.

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    Tags:
    Islamist terrorists, terror threat, counter-terrorism, police, UK Home Office, David Cameron, Manchester, London, United Kingdom
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