Britain’s National Police Chief’s Council has announced that there are 640 more armed officers than this time last year. The increase has been largely financed by a £143 million Home Office program with forces paying for additional officers.
The funding has resulted in an extra 41 Armed Response Vehicles (ARV) on the road in England and Wales in any given 24 hours, ready to respond to major incidents, including terrorist attacks. They are based in areas considered to be at greatest threat or with geographical challenges.
The plan is to recruit around 1,500 extra officers in total by the end of 2018 across 43 police forces – some of which will be highly specialized in responding to ongoing terrorist incidents.
The recruitment of counter terrorism specialist firearms officers (CTSFOs) would be extended until the end of 2018. These officers are taken from the ARV ranks and given extra training similar to that of the military. The National Police Chief’s Council is looking to double the size of the CTSFO team that was built for the London Olympics in 2012, and they will be brigaded into hubs around the country.
The Council’s Lead for Armed Policing, DCC Simon Chesterman said that there are also have plans in place to mobilize the non-Home Office forces to give support to a major incident and – if needed – the military.
“We have the ability to move much quicker to resolve situations. Previously the approach was to locate, contain and neutralize. Now it is to locate and confront. Our tactics are more aggressive.”
Chesterman also revealed that guidance for officers has been revised in relation to shooting at moving vehicles.
"Prior to the terrorist lorry attack in Nice (France) last July, where more than 80 people were killed and hundreds more seriously injured, firearms officers had the option of shooting at a moving vehicle, but the national guidance discouraged that. It was felt shooting at a moving vehicle could increase the risk to the public. In light of vehicles being used as weapons by terrorists, the guidance was revised, and it is now an accepted tactic that could be used in incidents such as those seen more recently in Sweden and Westminster.”
British firearms officers use .556 carbines, designed to be effective against strong glass and body armor. Chesterman says these weapons have been tested extensively, and trials have shown they can penetrate lorry cabs.