THE BLOG

Sousse, Cameron's 'Back the Police' and Embittered UK Law Enforcement

06/07/2015 10:58 BST | Updated 30/06/2016 10:59 BST

2015-06-30-1435655223-3856139-cameronmayimmigr_2495712b.jpg

The tragic events that unfolded in Sousse were watched with sheer horror by law enforcement professionals throughout the UK and memories were inevitably drawn back to other outrages in Paris, Sydney, Toronto, Nairobi and Mumbai.

In the wake of Sousse and the deaths of so many British nationals and with the approach of the 7/7 anniversary, we inevitably had expressions of sympathy from across the political spectrum together with dignified repatriations that would have chimed with all sections of the British public.

Ministerial statements on the UK's national security and the 'back the police' comment by David Cameron however drew scathing criticism on the grounds that the government could hardly be credited themselves with 'backing the police.' Difficulties caused by policing cutbacks are now flooding social media and police themselves will never forgive the disparaging comments made by Theresa May at Police Federation and her own party conferences.

Amongst the carnage caused by policing cuts lies the 'fight against terrorism' and once again this government displays a remarkable ability to, at times of crisis, utilise 'smoke and mirrors' spin techniques to re-assure the electorate that all is well.

"So Theresa May is travelling to Sousse, presumably to advise the Tunisian authorities to improve their security by cutting police numbers" was the first thought, cynical as it might appear, that entered my head when hearing that the Home Secretary intended to visit the scene of the massacre.

The only point that government and front line officers are agreed on is that the UK faces a huge threat from Islamist terrorists yet despite this very real threat, the government are still determined to continue cutting numbers of armed forces, police and UK Border Force personnel.

The government's record in terms of the Islamist threat within the UK leaves much to be desired with, it seems, a dubious over-reliance on GCHQ and the forthcoming 'snoopers charter.'

Amazingly, as a result of cuts to policing, the number of armed officers in England and Wales has actually been reduced by hundreds; police helicopter coverage, so crucial in tracking a rampaging gunman or gunmen could well be subject to further proposed cuts which will leave large tracts of the UK with no cover whatsoever. Finally police dog sections, so useful in so many ways including counter terror operations, have been decimated.

This week's Metropolitan Police counter terror exercise will be designed to demonstrate that armed response in central London is likely to be effective and that of course is rightly what is expected by the public.

There are however real concerns as to the situation within smaller forces collectively dubbed 'Ruralshire' by officers on social media. With the closure of so many police stations leaving even substantial towns without any police presence whatsoever, the response time of , quite probably, a single crewed unarmed officer to an ongoing terror attack may well leave much to be desired.

Little wonder that proposals to utilise retired armed police officers as 'back up' to depleted firearms units appear to be under consideration. Needless to say this has drawn withering "we told you so" criticism from both serving and retired officers.

Time is clearly of the essence in containing any rampaging gunman as was shown by the destruction wrought by Derrick Bird and Rual Moat. Let us also remember the recent warning given by the National Crime Agency that dangerous, high powered automatic weapons are being smuggled into the UK through our porous border controls.

Just one jihadist with just one of those weapons would cause carnage and multiple deaths in the time it would take police ARV's (Armed Response Vehicles) to arrive in many parts of the country.

The iconic figure of police social media, Inspector Gadget, summed up the situation when he recently tweeted "British unarmed police tactics for 'active shooter' 1. Run 2. Hide behind a wall 3. Radio in with location & number of dead 4. Repeat."

In fact unarmed police would do everything within their power to protect innocent members of the public whilst waiting for armed 'back up' to arrive yet even their arrival may not be enough to contain the situation. Make no mistake, every unarmed frontline officer has mentally explored, on numerous occasions, the 'what if' scenario concerning his or her confronting one or more 'active shooters.' The prospect is truly frightening.

The sheer contempt with which the government and its supporters both in the establishment and the media regard the police was clearly illustrated by Max Hastings in last Monday's Daily Mail where he used the derogatory phrase, "No Islamist plotter has yet been spotted by Sergeant Plod from his patrol car."

This nullified earlier faint praise given by Hastings to police in conjunction with GCHQ and MI5 in frustrating terrorist plots. It also demeans the principle of community policing, rapidly being strangled by Theresa May's policing cuts. It is this form of policing, which includes neighbourhood officers being welcomed into Mosques, Islamic centres together with primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities that is a key intelligence tool on a par with GCHQ: Such communication is also integral to the troubled' Prevent' strategy.

Then we have May's hostile stop and search comments which are as relevant in fight against terrorism as against other forms of criminality. The key question that surely must be asked is as follows: "Are terrorists, gang members, drug dealers and even modern day Arthur Daleys; A-more confident or B-less confident, in respect of being able to transport explosives, firearms, knives, drugs and stolen property without arrest than they were five years ago?"

In carrying out their own 'risk assessments' as they do, those mentioned above can surely only come to one conclusion.

Just to add to the mix, we have ongoing shambles at the UK's 'chocolate teapot' border controls where the morale of Theresa May's personally created UK Border Force is on the floor as measured by Home Office staff surveys.

Hundreds and probably as many as 2,000 jihadists have been able to leave the UK with near impunity thanks to Theresa May's failure to implement properly staffed departure controls or increase the numbers of hard pressed counter terrorist (CT) officers working at air and sea ports.

Even when the trickle became a flood, the failure to deploy UK CT officers to Turkish airports to assist Turkish authorities was a monumental blunder and even now there are concerns that, during the summer season, jihadists will book full package holidays with bona fide tour operators as a means of entering Syria via one of a number of international Turkish airports.

Many jihadists have returned to the UK undetected and whilst almost 350 terrorist arrests have been made thanks to outstanding work by the security services and police, most of these have been in relation to UK plots and activities rather than those who have been fighting or engaging in acts of barbaric brutality in the Middle East or East Africa.

Despite this situation UK Border Force officers are unable, unless the passenger has a suspect passport, to question passengers arriving at inbound controls if they are UK or EU nationals. This and automated eGates are manna from heaven for returning jihadists and travelling foreign criminals who are not 'on the radar.'

Doubtless when the worst happens, be it in weeks, months or years, we'll again have to suffer crocodile tears and bold statements from a government that will nevertheless be held responsible by the front line law enforcement community for its failures, as set out above.

Then of course the inevitable 'full and frank' judge led government enquiry that will drag on for years during which government failings will be hidden under the spurious cloak of national security.