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Counter terrorism: We all play our part

Thursday, 01 December 2016

This week is Counter Terrorism Awareness Week and across England and Wales. Simon Kempton, the Federation's lead on counter terrorism, looks at how far we've come and how we all play a role in keeping communities safe.

From now, across the Christmas period and into 2017, members of the public will see a heightened policing presence.

We know that this time of the year has, historically, brought with it a heightened threat. To police officers across the country it means working longer hours, more days and willingly facing that increased risk in order to keep the public safe. It means being away from our families on days that other people spend with those they love.

This week, the City of London Police will deploy officers from a variety of disciplines, both overt and covert. They’ll be around crowded places and transport hubs, building on techniques and equipment that the UK police service has had in place for more than a decade. I remember well, undergoing my Behaviour Assessment Screening System training (BASS) some years ago and seeing first-hand how the national counter terrorism network grew and improved to the world-class system we now have.

On many occasions I saw the network prevent attacks at various stages of planning and watched with pride as officers from around the country came together working long hours in often difficult and dangerous circumstances. I saw the results of their dedication as some of Britain’s most dangerous individuals received long custodial sentences. The public should be in no doubt, the men and women in UK policing and intelligence services are the best in the world.

In fact, our capabilities have increased beyond all recognition since the attacks on the United States in September 2001, and the later attacks in London on 7 July 2005. Without the dedication and personal sacrifice of officers across the country, those continued improvements would not have been possible.

And capabilities have improved in other areas too, for example, community policing. We know that the police’s ability to protect the public is dependent on strong community links. Sadly, this is an area under continuous threat. The erosion of policing numbers -  there are 20,000 fewer officers than in 2010 - threatens the links we’ve built with some of our hardest to reach communities.

Combatting terrorism starts with the neighbourhood officer building links within their communities. The response officer, responding to a call for assistance from the public, plays their part. Detectives pursuing those involved in terrorism and those in special counter terrorism units all help to protect the public and our national infrastructure.

If the government is serious about protecting the public, their first duty, both over Christmas and beyond, is to protect policing. It is to support the men and women who do this job by not further stretching resources that are already at breaking point.

Police officers are increasingly telling us that they quite simply cannot do any more and as a society we all need to make sure those who protect us are valued and feel valued.

As shown in the PFEW video, Combatting terrorism, we all play our part in detecting and preventing terrorist plots and we should all be proud of what we do to keep people safe.

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