Intolerance: Fewer Police on Streets & More Armed Police

7/7 and 21/7 will mean fewer policemen on Scotland's streets because they are needed for counter-terrorist operations, one of Scotland's most senior officers warned yesterday 2005-08-20. Mr.Paddy Tomkins, chief constable of 'Lothian & Borders Police', said the public would have to accept that priorities had changed. He revealed that Scottish specialists in counter-terrorism had already been seconded to London to help 'The Metropolitan Police' investigations into 7/7 and 21/7. Mr.Tomkins also warned that it would be naïve to think that Scotland was immune from terrorist attack. And he said that the 'increased terrorist threat' meant the sight of armed police on Scotland's streets was likely to become more common. While Scotland has been largely unaffected by last month's London bomb attacks, senior police officers believe that it remains a viable terrorist target and a location from which attacks could be launched against other parts of the United Kingdom. Mr.Tomkins said that the terrorist threat affected the whole of the UK.
'We have all got a problem,' he said. 'The global village is a reality. It would be an act of "towering naïvety" to think that Edinburgh or Scotland was immune from being caught up in such events.'
He said while London remained the most obvious target, it was reasonable to think that terrorists looking for a high-profile strike might also consider Scotland's cities.
'London is a very attractive target but then you start looking at other targets which have a major brand and you have to include major cities in Scotland in that,' he said. 'We have no specific evidence, but the possibility can't be discounted and it would be stupid to be complacent.'
The balancing act faced by senior police officers is that while the threat is perceived to have risen, there has been no increase in resources to use in tackling it. Mr.Tomkins said that in an ideal world he would have more officers, more resources and access to more databases to help target terrorist suspects. But the reality was that compromises had to be made and people had to accept that might mean a reduction in the number of officers available for other duties.
'What I want is better understanding from all communities,' he said. 'We are all in this together and we need to explain to the people of Hawick, Dunbar and Livingston that their police are as involved in combating terrorism as those in Edinburgh and London. 'That will inevitably have an effect on local policing, for example, the removal of resources.'
Just as Scottish chief constables were able to call on their English counterparts for assistance during last month's 'G8 summit' at Gleneagles, 'The Metropolitan Police' have sought the help of other forces in investigating the 7/7 and 21/7 attacks.
'While the attacks were taking place in London, it is very much a UK challenge,' said Mr.Tomkins. 'It affected all of us. 'Other forces are supporting "The Met.", including Scottish officers. We have some counter- terrorism specialists in London at the moment.'
Last month's bombings saw a massive increase in the presence of armed officers on the streets of London, and Mr.Tomkins said that the Scottish public should also expect to see an increasingly visible armed presence. Armed officers are regularly deployed at Scottish airports, and after the 7/7 attacks they were also to be seen at train stations in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
'We expect to see more frequent deployment of those officers. People have become used to seeing armed officers at airports and that might extend to other transport and financial hubs,' he said.
Despite the furore surrounding the shooting of the innocent Brazilian electrician Mr.Jean Charles de Menezes, Mr.Tomkins said he did not believe there was any need for a change in the 'shoot-to-kill' guidelines issued to forces across the country, though he sympathised with those having to make difficult decisions.
'The procedures that we train to adopt are quite clear and we'll stick to those,' he said. 'I have great confidence in the training and expertise of the officers, but the sheer responsibility on them and me must weigh heavily on my mind and theirs. 'Having the means to use lethal force is a grave responsibility.'
And he said he remained opposed to the routine arming of police officers, as 'it changes the relationship between the police and the community'. 'The Metropolitan Police' had been warning for some time that an attack on London was inevitable, and 'The Lothian & Borders' chief constable said that had been the only realistic assessment that could be made.
'It [the first attack] was a shock but not a surprise,' he said. 'We have all been saying -- and the level of the security status in the UK was such -- that it wasn't a question of if, but when. 'Knowing the profile of the UK and its desirability as a target, it was inevitable.'
But he cautioned that a determined attacker always had a chance of getting through.
'It is unrealistic, given the complexity of modern society, to expect us to be able to anticipate every action by people who want to mount attacks.'
He said he believed the only real long-term solution was to improve the relationship with the communities from which potential attackers could be drawn. 'Get used to officers with guns, police chief warns Scots', Gethin Chamberlain, The Scotsman, 2005-08-21 Links: Home Office - terrorism MI 5 Liberty Muslim Community of Gloucester (Sajid Badat)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Total pish! Using London attacks as an excuse to reduce bobbies ont he beat, to get the police guns and to increase police powers and make things worse for us all. This is worse than any terrorist threat! Maybe the terrorists have won??? By turning us into a police state, the next step is to get a dictator!

8/22/2005 12:06:00 am  

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