The specialist firearms capacity in police officers across England and Wales must be enhanced to deal effectively with Paris-style attacks, the Police Federation has warned.
Steve White, chair, Police Federation of England and Wales, added that numbers of all officers must be maintained to avoid losing their connection with the public.
He said: ‘First and foremost our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who were murdered in Paris last week and the incredible efforts made by the emergency services; it was a truly shocking, brutal and appalling series of attacks on dozens of innocent people. That the UK has not suffered similar death and destruction on our streets in recent years is in large part down to the vigilance, skill and dedication of our police officers and security services personnel who work extremely closely together.
‘We welcome the government’s announcement that an extra 1,900 staff have been recruited for MI5, MI6 and GCHQ – ministers clearly recognise that you can’t do anything if you don’t have the people available to do it. Which begs the obvious question as to whether cutting police budgets at this time by up to 40 per cent is a wise policy? The last five years of cuts has already seen 17,000 police officers leave the service – we would expect the departure of many more thousands if the proposed cuts become a reality.
‘Officers believe that if these cuts go ahead as planned, they would be unable to continue to offer the necessary protection to the public. The attacks in Paris demonstrated the need to constantly revise our planned response to this type of incident. The attacks were on a scale that would require significant additional investment in specialist firearms roles across the UK to deal with effectively.
‘But firearms are just part of the story – at the same time, local neighbourhood and response policing must be maintained to provide reassurance and relationship building with communities.
‘Losing this link with the public would put in jeopardy the notion of policing by consent and severely risk the ability of officers, despite their best efforts, to gather intelligence from and build links with communities. It would be foolhardy and downright dangerous for the government to refuse to protect the ability of officers to protect the public.
‘Prevention is better than cure – surely the public would rather the police service was able to continue to prevent this kind of terrorist attack rather than attempt to pick up the pieces after the act?’