Rural police 'could routinely carry guns' – BBC News

Front-line officers in remote, rural communities could be routinely armed in order to deal with terror threats, police chiefs have said.

The move is being considered by the National Police Chiefs’ Council because of a lack of specialist counter-terrorist firearms officers.

It comes after a drive to recruit these officers in England and Wales fell short by about 100.

Police said arming officers in remote areas would be a last resort.

Counter-terrorist specialist firearms officers (CTSFOs) are trained with special forces to deal with a raft of situations, including hostage rescues and terror attacks.

Plans were put in place to bolster the UK’s capacity for armed responses in the wake of the Paris terror attacks in 2015, in which 130 people died.

Over the past two years, the Home Office has funded an extra 874 armed officers in England and Wales – bringing the total to more than 6,400 in April 2017.

But on a practical level, police chiefs have estimated that in rural communities, such as Devon and Cornwall, a firearms unit could be between 30-70 miles away in the event of a major incident.

AnalysisBy Home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw

Two years ago, police warned that “unarmed and vulnerable” officers in rural communities would be “sitting ducks” in the event of a terror attack.

Since then, huge investment and effort has gone into improving armed police capacity and capability, as the latest announcement shows – but gaps remain.

Armed response vehicles (ARVs), which are intended to be first on the scene of a firearms incident, are an expensive asset, with 13 officers required to double-crew a vehicle 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

That’s why police chiefs are looking at alternatives to deploying ARVs in areas where there’s a low risk of a terror attack, such as allowing front-line officers to carry guns.

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