Our country is unprepared for terrorism

Mick Gradwell

Mick Gradwell

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It is a very sad reflection of the times in which we live that one of the first newspaper columns that I wrote in 2015 was about a terrorist atrocity in Paris and one of the last columns that I will write this year is about yet another truly awful terrorist attack in the same city.

At the beginning of the year, I highlighted that the French police deployed nearly 88,000 armed personnel immediately to tackle the terrorist threat, this time it was over 100,000 within the first 24 hours.

This is the type of firepower that is required to overwhelm the threat that is posed by heavily armed terrorists who have no compunction, whatsoever, about blowing themselves to bits.

Except for perhaps the London area, the UK police service is ill-equipped to deal with this type of terrorist attack. In fact, the Home Secretary Theresa May recently announced that she considered some forces should start to share firearm resources, in order to save costs.

This proposed reduction in the overall number of armed officers in the UK, linked to the reduction in the number of police helicopters, weakens the ability of our police service even further.

Helicopters are important because they can give police commanders an overview of the rapidly changing circumstances and the threats that result from terrorists moving quickly from one targeted location to another. This is vital information when deploying mainly unarmed officers to a terrorist act of this nature. Unfortunately, I see it as almost inevitable that a UK town or city will be the target of one of these attacks eventually, unless there is a dramatic change in world events.

The UK police need to train many more armed officers, who need to be equipped with a greater firepower than present. The lack of air cover can be addressed by the purchase of quadcopters. These are simple and relatively inexpensive pieces of technology that can be rapidly deployed to provide a visual of the event as it develops.

However, the government appears committed to forwarding a programme of depleting our police service further, leaving officers and everybody else vulnerable to crime, disorder and terrorism. It’s total madness, taking into account the events of this year, that as a country we are so unprepared.

We are heading towards a position where we may end up, so to speak, closing the stable doors after the horse has bolted.