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Presence of armed police at Battle parade defended

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ARMED police are necessary at large, public events in Jersey because of the global terrorism climate – but Islanders are being urged to not to be scared or intimidated by them.

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Acting Chief Inspector Mark Hafey has urged Islanders who see firearms officers to engage with them and ask questions after concerns were raised among sections of the public who saw officers with guns patrolling at this year’s Battle of Flowers parade.

Acting Chief Insp Hafey, head of firearms for the States police, said the force have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

‘What would those who criticise the visible deployment of armed officers say if there were an attack and there weren’t any armed officers present?,’ he said.

‘Armed officers are normal patrol officers who happen to carry weapons. They’re friendly, approachable and there to interact with the public. Public reassurance is important to us and we want the public to feel safe when they attend public events.’

The terror threat for the UK remains severe – meaning an attack is highly likely. Jersey mirrors the UK in terms of threat level, however there is no specific intelligence, the States police say, of a threat to Jersey.

He added: ‘I would urge the public to approach them; ask them questions about their training, about their weapons and about why they are there. Events worldwide regularly show that nowhere is off limits to terrorism or individual acts of violence.

‘As we have seen in the UK and across Europe attacks can happen at any time and any place without warning.

‘Understanding the threat we all face and of the ways we can mitigate it can help keep us safer.

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‘We do not expect an attack but it’s best to be prepared. Having better security at large public attended events, such as the Battle of Flowers, makes it harder for terrorists to plan and carry out attacks. It also helps reduce the risk of other threats such as organised crime.

‘One of the four areas of the Policing Plan is to protect and prevent and as such the SOJP have a responsibility to respond effectively to major risks, incidents, and events that threaten public safety. Having a small armed presence at major events is both proportionate and a deterrent.’

Some of the criticisms, largely posted online, said there was no need for the officers or that their presence was ‘overkill’. One commentator said: ‘Completely unnecessary to be out on display. All this does is reinforce the misconception that there are potential threats out there we need constant protection from.’

Acting Chief Insp Hafey said the force wants the public to feel comfortable seeing armed officers and said their visual presence was necessary both as a deterrent and to ensure that, should they be needed, they can respond as quickly as possible.

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
author

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