The number of police officers armed with guns and Tasers should be increased nationwide to aid the fight against future terror attacks.
That’s the view of the chairman of Hampshire’s Police Federation following a mass stabbing in London’s Russell Square that left one woman dead and five others injured.
Metropolitan Police officials originally refused to rule out terrorism as a possible motive for last Wednesday night’s attack, although the force has since said it was more likely that the attack had been as a result of mental health issues.
The atrocity came just hours after the first heavily armed specialist police officers were unveiled in the capital as part of a £143million move from the Home Office to prevent terrorist attacks.
In total 1,500 Counter Terrorism Specialist Firearms Officers will be deployed across the country over the next two years, including in Hampshire – a number federation chairman John Apter believes should be increased.
He said: “We’re playing catch up because we’re not increasing police numbers by much by doing this, as we’ve lost 1,400 officers over the last few years.
“I think there should be a considerably greater increase in firearm officers, although I don’t believe in routine arming.
“It’s a sad statement, because I didn’t start doing this job to become armed.”
Each of the new heavily armed officers are equipped with SIG Carbine rifles, handguns, ballistic shields and motorbikes, so as to be able to rapidly respond to serious incidents.
They are also armed with Taser, with police using the non-lethal weapon to bring down and arrest the Russell Square suspect.
Mr Apter has long been an advocate of using Taser, which is currently used by 400 Hampshire Constabulary officers and was drawn 226 times and shot 34 times to incapacitate suspects in the last year.
And he reiterated his desire for the equipment to be rolled out to all officers, both in Hampshire and nationwide.
“You can’t have specially trained police officers in every street, which is why we need more officers to be equipped with Taser,” said Mr Apter.
“Time and time again it proves itself as best option, as was shown in London, whereas in other places in the world, lethal force would probably have been used against that individual.
“But even Taser won’t protect against terrorist attackers, who have bombs and are armed with automatic weapons, which is why we also need more firearms officers.
“My concern is that when, not if, terrorist atrocities hit this country, we will then have politicians shouting from the rooftops that we need more officers and more equipment.
“But we need more and must have more before something happens, not afterwards.”