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Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 11:23 GMT
Six Forum: Can the police deal with terrorism?
Vice-President of the Police Superintendents' Association, Rick Naylor, answered your questions in a LIVE forum for the BBC's Six O'clock News, presented by Manisha Tank.
Police have launched an internal inquiry after an officer not wearing body armour was stabbed to death during a counter-terrorism operation in Manchester.
Father-of-three Stephen Oake, 40, died and three other officers were injured as police searched three men in a flat in Crumpsall, in the north of the city.
Officers are still checking the flat and surrounding premises for the deadly poison ricin.
The incident has again raised the question of whether the police are adequately equipped to deal with the threat of terrorism.
The BBC's Frank Gardner says that despite years of experience in dealing with threats from the IRA, the police are struggling to cope with the new challenge.
Are the police equipped to deal with terrorists? Should the police be armed? Does the UK need an FBI-style anti-terrorism agency?
The incident has raised a new debate over how well equipped Britain's police really are in fighting terrorism. Is the Government doing enough to support police efforts and what role do the intelligence services play? Most of all is there now a stronger case for arming Britain's police?
I am pleased to be joined in the studio by Rick Naylor, Vice President of the Police Superintendents' Association.
We'll start with an e-mail from Jules Charrington, Brighton: How is it possible that experienced police officers can go on what was effectively an anti-terrorism raid without body armour or any protective clothing?
Unfortunately, the incident that resulted in Stephen Oake's death happened about an hour after the officers first entered the flat. It's really unclear at the moment, until we have the investigation, as to what actually has happened in that hour between the officers getting in the flat and the incident happening last night. It is obviously a dreadful, dreadful incident and my condolences and that of the association go out to Stephen Oake's family and friends.
Now you just said that the incident happened about an hour after everything began. So, is there a suggestion there that perhaps you didn't expect for this to turn out the way that it did in terms of the violence that ended up occurring there?
It was only when they actually got into the flat and they found two other people there and then as we have found out today that they really were on the terrorist wanted list, that they ante upped during that operation. It was precisely at the moment where one of the suspects was being identified as to who he was that he went berserk and obviously a fanatic like that takes a lot of police manpower to subdue.
What is the situation surrounding whether a police officer goes out wearing a vest or not?
So it would have been on the risk assessment as I said a few moments ago plus the advice of a tactical adviser which they will have had last night, as to what sort of protection those officers should have had.
Anonymous: Do you accept that not enough has been done to protect the public, nor your own officers on the front line?
The new element that's come into policing after 9/11 is the Islamic terrorism as we've seen in the tragic events of yesterday - we assume anyway. So we have a lot of experience of dealing with terrorism and the intelligence services in this country are very effective in dealing with that. You only have to see the numbers that are arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and dealt with either through the courts or deported. There is sufficient legislation there, there is sufficient police expertise.
What I think has got to change, perhaps with my colleagues up and down the country, is that they've got to realise that some of these people are fanatics and are willing to lose their lives to achieve their aims and that is something that perhaps the British police service has not faced before.
In fact, last night at the North Manchester Hospital, they put into practice their chemical attack plan and they stopped taking in casualties and the doctors wanted to examine and observe the officers and the ambulance officers that went to the scene last night.
Martin Hammer writes in from London: If it's good enough for Northern Ireland, then right now it's good enough for London and the rest of the UK. An armed police force is the only way forward to combat the rise in criminal society that has no respect for the law.
Do you agree with this? Let's bear in mind that we are dealing with this new element of terrorism - one that has been completely unpredictable.
There are arms available to officers. Every force has armed response vehicles which can be mobilised in a matter of seconds and directed towards incidents and that has been a development in recent years. There are more armed officers out on the streets of England and Wales than there have ever been really in response to the gun crime problems in certain cities and that's to reassure the public that the police do take this seriously.
But if we up the ante and actually arm every police officer, it will send a stark message to not only the lawbreaking society and individuals in the community but also the law-abiding ones. We will have certainly increased the fear of crime by doing that, I believe.
We are admired across most of the world for the work that the British Police Service do unarmed in very difficult situations. What we can't get away from is that policing is a dangerous and difficult business and sometimes - like Stephen Oake did last night - officers have to pay the ultimate price to protect the community.
Do you agree - is there anything to be learnt from the American model?
I agree with Peter that there isn't a magic solution. Terrorists don't go around with a badge on saying, I'm a terrorist please arrest me. Because of the very nature of the thing that they're doing, they try to assimilate themselves into the population - very, very difficult to identify them, they assume many different identities. It is a particularly difficult area of policing and my admiration goes out to all those police officers - the anti-terrorist squad, special branch officers that have to work in this way. It is a very, very grey and murky area of policing.
15 Jan 03 | UK
15 Jan 03 | England
15 Jan 03 | UK
15 Jan 03 | England
15 Jan 03 | UK
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