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We all play our part in detecting and preventing terrorism

Thursday, 07 July 2016

PFEW's lead spokesperson on terrorism Simon Kempton - an officer who worked in Counter Terrorism for seven years - remembers the lives that were lost during the 7/7 London bombings and looks at the vital roles police officers play in combating terrorism.

On the eleventh anniversary of the 7/7 London terrorist atrocities, and in the light of recent terrorist-related murders in Turkey and Afghanistan, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the threat to us all from terrorism, and the work police officers do to keep our communities safe from that threat.

That threat has recently been brought home to us individually, as police officers have been made the subject of terrorist plots. We are all now more aware of our own personal security. We no longer travel to work in uniform. We receive briefings about the threat to us and see colleagues in France and Belgium being specifically targeted; a sobering reminder of the conditions our friends and colleagues in Northern Ireland have faced for so long.

As police officers arrived for their early shift on 7 July 2005, they would have had no idea what they would face  less than two hours later – four suicide bombers who killed 52 people and injured over 700 others. As they prepared for the day ahead, they were unaware that they would soon be faced with scenes so horrific that they would be burned into their memories. Today will be particularly poignant for PC Elizabeth Kenworthy from the Metropolitan Police. Off duty at the time, she was awarded an MBE for her efforts and has chosen today to retire from the service.

From the initial responders, who would place themselves in danger to rescue victims of those bombs, to colleagues who in the coming days and weeks, would go on to work incredible hours and to the very limits of their endurance to track down those responsible, helping prevent further attacks. These officers would spend months and years ensuring all those with any responsibility for the murders would be brought to justice. Neighbourhood officers would go on to work tirelessly trying to put communities back together.

Undoubtedly our police service and our intelligence services have prevented many more terror plots from coming to fruition. Those successes, saving so many lives, are testament to that attitude of British policing: no matter what obstacles are put in our way, no matter how difficult the task, we get the job done. We work together as a hugely successful team.

But if we are to continue to keep our communities safe from the scourge of terrorism, we must protect our police service from further degradation. From our Neighbourhood Policing Teams, response officers, detectives, prisoner handling teams and colleagues in public protection teams to those officers in dedicated counter-terrorism roles. As shown in the recently launched PFEW video ‘Combating Terrorism’, we all play our part in detecting and preventing terrorist plots.

There is the potential for further austerity cuts in the future. If the government is serious about continuing to protect its citizens, it must recognise the broad nature of counter-terrorism policing, and ensure funding and resourcing for all aspects of policing is protected in real terms, not just as an expression of a percentage of overall budgets. This is particularly the case following the recent EU referendum result, when we are yet to understand what affect, if any, there might be on our cooperation with European colleagues.

Today is a time to reflect on those lives lost at the hands of terrorists in the UK and across Europe. And it’s a time for the Police Federation to continue to press for greater legal protection for firearms officers who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us all and a time to continue to push for all officers who wish it, to have the protection of Taser to enable them to further protect themselves and the public. Recent rollouts in Devon and Cornwall and elsewhere need to be built on and the Federation won’t stop pushing for this important improvement.

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