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London Terror Attack Reveals The Dangers Of Restrictive Police Policy

London Terror Attack Reveals The Dangers Of Restrictive Police Policy

The British people are coming to terms with yet another “lone wolf” terrorist attack in London.  In what has become a favorite method by terrorists, a single assailant drove his vehicle through an area with multiple people walking and then crashed into a fence outside Parliament. The crash left three dead including 29 injured before the terrorist got out of his vehicle with a large knife and was confronted by a veteran police officer with 15 years of experience.

It is tragic that PC Keith Palmer, like most of his fellow officers, was unarmed and could not defend himself or others against an evil terrorist.

In the British Model of Policing, that prohibits many of those behind the badge from carrying a weapon, when terrorist attacks are increasing, you may ask yourself that at least that is not the way it is done in America.

While it is true that American Policing involves giving weapons to police officers, there is a cowardly trend of some that want the outdated British Policies on law enforcement to be translated in policy manuals here in America.

In it’s “Guiding Principles On Use Of Force”, by the Police Executive Research Forum, the organization and Chuck Wexler in particular discusses the value in their travels to the United Kingdom:

“This effort has benefited from numerous police officials not only in the United States, but in the United Kingdom as well. As described in one of this report’s chapters, Police Scotland offers valuable perspectives on the police response to certain types of calls—particularly those that involve people with a mental illness who are brandishing a knife or baseball bat, but who do not have a gun. Because the vast majority of Scottish police officers do not themselves carry firearms, they receive extensive training on how to resolve such incidents without using a firearm….In addition, Police Scotland sent representatives to Washington, D.C., where they provided information and perspectives as we developed the framework for our January 29 national conference which is summarized in this report.”

While the report and likely even Wexler would acknowledge that the problems faced by law enforcement in the UK and USA are quite different, Chuck Wexler has spent the last few years talking in a positive fashion of what the United Kingdom does in regards to police training.

Missy O’Linn attended a meeting in 2015 that precluded the 30 Guidelines Report from PERF.

“Initially I would like to say that I was very disappointed that the overall theme of the PERF meeting seemed to be that American policing is bad: bad cops; bad tactics; and bad training – that Wexler and PERF attributed to Calibre Press and the “21-foot rule” and a theme that included our officers adopting a plan to step up and take on knife wielding suspects like they do in the UK and Scotland,” Cited O’Linn.

While the ensuing Use of Force report issued by PERF in January 2016 has been largely dismissed by law enforcement, there have been movements within some agencies to adopt the principles.  In particular, policies on “de-escalation” and the prohibition on shooting at cars has been the most popular by some administrators.

While I maintain that “de-escalation” is very important, I also believe that there comes a time when continuing de-escalation only places the safety of police officers and citizens at serious risk.  This disturbing video from Fairbanks (AK) Police is just one example we have seen since the Guideline Report has been issued.  Wexler’s report says that “De-escalation also involves keeping a low voice and an even tone whenever possible, asking open-ended questions, and listening carefully to the answers. By asking questions and paying attention to the answers, officers may obtain key information about the subject and the situation that provides a way to resolve the incident.”

Unfortunately, there was no amount of “low voice” and “even tone” that PC Keith Palmer could have done to stop a knife wielding terrorist on Wednesday and in some American cities, because of weak leadership, a terrorist can mow down countless citizens with a vehicle and the police would be breaking their own policy if they used deadly force on the evil among them.

So before we get all high and mighty here in the United States and wonder why British Cops don’t carry weapons to protect themselves or others, remember that there are political forces and leaders of police departments that are preventing our own officers from protecting those they are sworn to guard. Fortunately, the men and women behind the badge in cities around the United States would not hesitate to stop a terrorist, whether that would be violating a PERF inspired policy or not.

About The Author

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Travis Yates is a writer and editor at Law Officer. His Seminars in Risk Management & Officer Safety have been taught across the United States & Canada. Major Yates has a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is the Director of Training for SAFETAC Training.

  • Ambrose Killen

    The principal difference is that there is an essentially unarmed population in the UK. Very few people have gun licences, and they are all closely supervised, so the chance of an officer coming up against a firearm are remote. In the US, guns are freely available to virtually anyone who wants one. Consequently US police officers have to behave in quite a different way when aproaching a citizen. Whilst we speak the same(ish) language, have many common ties and shared values, the attitudes to firearms are completely different. We do not understand what we perceive to be a national obsession with firearms. Many colleagues from the US express astonishment that most of our police officers are unarmed. With regard to firearms, it is naive to compare the two cultures, and dangerous for either side to draw lessons from the other.

    • Grayowl

      Very good point. Brits are safe targets. Terrorists love to slaughter without being at risk themselves.
      I see vigilante groups once Brits have a general fear of Muslims. There will also be more turmoil at the polls.

  • Gran Queso

    Well said, Mr. Gray. 🙂

  • Police Chaplain

    Well said Travis.

  • Grayowl

    Having taught and used de-escelative techniques, I assure you that these skills do not replace body armor and guns. Any deescalation scenario should include a plan for self defense if the suspect turns violent.
    I salute British officers. They stand in harms way with few means of defending themselves or others. Terrorists always seek out the defenseless. Unarmed officers are prime targets because their death reinforces the idea that government cannot protect anyone from attack. More will die.
    God bless them all.

    • Ruffian31

      I agree, you’d can’t de-escalate a situation with a terrorist. They don’t negotiate, they are trained to act one way and one way alone. There is no reasoning with them, there is nothing you can say that will deter them. Most other countries are still blind to this fact and I agree, talking will only get you so far…and in this case, nowhere. At some point, deadly force is necessary to stop the threat. No one wants to take a life, but if it comes down to me or the perp, it isn’t going to be me.

      • Grayowl

        Any SWAT negotiator having dealt with a terrorist knows they want access to the press only. There is no dealing for hostages without media coverage for their cause.
        I have always wanted to disguise a hostage rescue team as media. Kill the terrorists.

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