Friday 20 May 2011

Now Police Want Armed Officers Underground

The general expectation of most people living and working near to the Olympic Park in east London is that, next year, transport will be appalling and the area around Stratford will quickly start to resemble an military camp.

The 2012 Games undoubtedly represent the world's biggest terrorist target, what the Home Office calls "the biggest peace-time security operation in UK history". This is why, at a time of huge cuts, the government announced in December 2010 that it is committed to providing staggering amounts of money to fund it: £567m in 2011/12 and £564m in 2012/13 for counter-terrorism policing, "much of which is devoted to the Olympics". On top of that, we also know that the London Organising Committee (LOCOG) has signed a £100m contract with the private security firm G4S to provide stewards and guards inside the Olympic venues.

However, next year's Games is also providing the main justification for senior police officers to see how far they can pushing the boundaries. Today, it's the announcement that the British Transport Police wants its own armed response unit "in time for the 2012 Olympics", with officers based at main rail stations "but also deployed for occasional patrols on the Underground".

This is an insane idea. Radio communication underground may well have improved dramatically since the execution of innocent Tube traveller Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell station in July 2005, but that doesn't mean that the control of gung-ho firearms officers is any less of a huge risk - especially when they are carrying Heckler and Koch carbines and Glock 9mm pistols in confined spaces underground. All that their deployment on the Tube will do is greatly increase fear and panic amongst members of the public who well remember the circumstances of a fellow commuter's horrific and 'accidental' killing, whilst further normalising the routine arming of a supposedly unarmed constabulary. And unlike, say, accurate intelligence, what police-with-guns most certainly won't do is stop a terrorist attack from taking place - any more than armed officers in Mumbai stopped the awful shooting spree in 2008.

It makes no difference how often the police and Olympic organisers say next year "is a sporting event, not a security event" if London becomes more and more militarised. But that's the direction we seem to be going.


Anonymous said...

I suspect these officers will also be equipped with the same dum dum bullets as issued to Metropolitan Police marksmen. They're unlawful on the battlefield but OK for London so it seems.

Bird Man said...

I have no problemwith hollow point bullets being used in confined spaces as there is much less chance of others being shot by a bullet going through the target.

However, I completely oppose the routine arming of police, and for BTP to say that they need these officers to improve safety is madness. Terrorists will not be deterred by such a presence - this is just a show of force wanted by a gung ho Police leadership and needs to be opposed. It will be interesting whether Newham's Labour Mayor will oppose the move.

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