THE boss of the body for Hampshire’s rank and file police fears that officers responding to terrorist attack would be “sitting ducks”.
Hampshire Police Federation chairman John Apter, pictured below, wants a national debate and poll of officers on routine arming.
Mr Apter says he would have “grave concerns” for the first officers arriving at a Paris-style terror attack.
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.”
Mr Apter added: “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 [PFEW]. As the only routinely unarmed police service in Europe we are unique – some would say vulnerable.”
Mr Apter warns the force must adapt to changing circumstances globally.
The PFEW is supportive of the request, he adds, with it now looking at the format of such a poll.
Routine arming is being looked at by the police across the UK.
West Midlands Deputy Chief Constable Dave Thompson is considering increasing the number of armed officers in the wake of the Paris attacks, where 130 people were murdered.
He will take over as chief next month and says he wants to review the force’s armed response capability as part of a modernisation programme.
DCC Thompson, chairman of the firearms threat group and national lead on the criminal use of firearms, says he wants further discussions on unarmed officers continuing alongside more armed police.
Police and crime commissioner Simon 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.
“If the purpose of arming all officers is to protect them and the public from a terrorist attack, thought should also be given to what they are armed with.
“In Paris last month, the terrorists used automatic weapons. At the moment in the UK Authorised Firearms Officers use only single-shot weapons. I know that both locally and nationally tactics are under constant review. Consideration should be given to training and arming specialist officers with automatic weapons to deal with a Paris-style terrorist situation.
“It’s been over 10 years since officers were asked their view on this and it seems reasonable that they are asked again.”