THE man who represents police in Hampshire has warned that officers responding to terrorist attacks are ‘sitting ducks’.
John Apter, Hampshire Police Federation chairman, who represents rank-and-file officers, wants a survey of all Police Federation of England and Wales members on the issue of routinely arming police.
I didn’t join the job to be routinely armed, but we must adapt and change to the world around usJohn Apter
He said: ‘As a police officer of 23 years I have never wanted to be armed and have had complete faith and respect in those of my colleagues who are.
‘Over recent years the threat posed by terrorists has changed significantly and we know that serving police officers have been identified as legitimate targets by the terrorist group Isis.
‘In 2006 a survey was carried out of the rank-and-file to see if they supported the routine arming of police officers.
‘At that time the majority did not support this so the matter was not pursued by the Police Federation.
‘As the only routinely unarmed police service in Europe we are unique, some would say vulnerable.
‘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.’
Mr Apter made his comments in the wake of the Isis gun and bomb attack in Paris.
He added: ‘I didn’t join the job to be routinely armed, but we must adapt and change to the world around us.
‘I don’t have all the answers and I know this is a contentious issue but it’s one we must talk about.
‘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 saud they would never carry a firearm and 56 per cent said they would resign rather than follow an order to carry a firearm.
The Police Federation for England and Wales is supportive of Mr Apter’s request for a survey.