POLICE responding to terrorist attacks would be ‘sitting ducks’ as they are not armed.
That is the view of Hampshire Police Federation chairman John Apter who is calling for a national debate on routinely arming officers.
Consideration should be given to training and arming specialist officers with automatic weapons to deal with a Paris-style terrorist situationSimon Hayes
Currently police officers are not armed outside of specialist units.
Mr Apter’s call has been met with mixed reaction.
He said: ‘With terrorist attacks increasing around the world and the indiscriminate manner in which they are carried out, I have grave concerns for those first police officers who respond to such incidents.
‘They are vulnerable and unable to defend themselves or protect the public in any way whatsoever. They would be sitting ducks.’
He added: ‘I took on my role as a fed rep to represent and support the interests of my members, I couldn’t look them in the eye if, in the knowledge of such a threat, I didn’t do all I could to make sure all options were considered, even if some of those options are unpalatable for some.’
A previous survey of 141,000 officers in 2006 sought the opinion on arming police. It found 43 per cent were not confident that armed support would be available should they need it.
When asked if a decision was made to train and arm all police officers while on duty, 70 per cent of officers would be prepared to do so.
But 13.8 per cent said they would never carry a firearm and 56 per cent said they would rather resign.
Mr Hayes said: ‘The routine arming of British police officers would mark a fundamental change to the image of British policing and to the way the public see their police.’
He added: ‘In Paris last month, the terrorists used automatic weapons. At the moment in the UK Authorised Firearms Officers use only single-shot weapons.
‘Consideration should be given to training and arming specialist officers with automatic weapons to deal with a Paris-style terrorist situation.’
Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond said arming police was not the way to tackle extremism.
She said: ‘I do not want to see the spread of gun culture in our society which could lead to the sorts of tragedies and crimes we see happening so often in the United States.’
But she added she agreed with having the current specialist armed officers.