Plans to deploy more armed anti-terror police officers on the busy streets of the UK has been criticised by Professor of Sociology Frank Furedi of Kent University as a “PR stunt”.
Plans to have more armed police officers present at British shopping centres and tourist destinations have been described as an “anti-terror PR stunt” which should not be prioritised over investigation and intelligence gathering in order to quell terrorist attacks.
Two forces, Essex and Kent police have confirmed they will be deploying officers armed with guns and Tasers to areas of large footfall such as Bluewater and Lakeside shopping centres, Canterbury Cathedral, the port of Dover and Southend Airport.
Though it has been confirmed there is no new intelligence of a direct threat the two forces said they want to be “adequately prepared”.
Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent Frank Furedi believes a higher number of militant officers around British streets and buildings is aimed at simply improving the public’s perception of how police handle terrorism, rather than actually solving the problem.
“It is distracting police from what they should be doing – the hard graft of dealing with bad people, rather than PR stunts,” he told the Times.
He continued: “[Terrorism] is a very serious matter, which is dealt with best with low-key behind-the-scenes intelligence work. That’s how we deal with these kinds of threats, not this fantasy of having a bunch of police marching in public.”
For the past two years, coinciding with the rise of IS in the Middle East, Britain’s terror threat level has remained at severe, which, means an attack is “highly likely”.
The threat level is decided by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre comprised of representatives from 16 government departments and agencies.
Earlier this year the UK government announced plans to invest £34 million to support firearms resources and training.
The Metropolitan Police added 600 armed officers to its patrol bringing the total in London to 2,800.
Police Scotland also increased its armed quota to 90 in June bringing the total to 365.
The greater funding for anti- terror police in England comes at a time when the government’s direct funding for the police will fall £131million between 2016/17 and 2019/20.
There will also be a cut to Home Office police grants -between this year and next year -of 2.7%.