Armed police to patrol Derby this Christmas to protect from terrorist attack

This post first appeared on Derby Telegraph. Read the original article.

Armed police will be patrolling the streets of Derby this Christmas to protect the public from a terrorist attack.

It is the first time Derbyshire police have ever deployed armed cops to openly patrol public areas on a daily basis.

Last year they bucked the trend by not having armed officers on patrol when other forces did but Assistant Chief Constable Chris Hayward said Islamic State-inspired terrorist attacks in London and Manchester this year had changed that position.

Patrols will begin tomorrow and will run over Christmas and New Year at various locations including Pride Park stadium during matches, Derby bus station, the city's train station and other parts of the county.

It is the first time Derbyshire police has ever deployed armed cops to openly patrol the public on a daily basis.

It is the first time Derbyshire police have ever deployed armed cops to openly patrol public areas on a daily basis.

When asked why the force had changed its mind, Mr Hayward said: "What's happened this year in the UK and in the rest of Europe has changed the situation. There has been heightened awareness of the threats we are facing.

"The threat has changed from what was 18 months ago - some sort of planned and organised attack - to what we have seen this year, which has been a more and more lone wolf style attack. They have been unplanned and unpredictable with no way of knowing. There is a heightened fear and tension.

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"These are routine patrols and are not because of a piece of intelligence. We will keep this under review over the Christmas period. I doubt they will become routine - this is a period of time when there will be increased footfall in the run-up to Christmas and New Year."

The country has been rocked by attacks this year including the Manchester Arena bombing in May when 23 people were killed and more than 500 were injured. And, in March, more than 50 people were injured and four were killed in the Westminster 4x4 attack.

Mr Hayward said the threat of a terrorist attack in Derby or the county was a worry. He said: "What worries me is the situation we have which has changed from organised attacks to totally unprepared and unplanned. They are extremely difficult to act against.

"The fear of a low sophisticated attack happening outside of a big city has increased. And we need to be mindful of that in Derbyshire."

He said he wanted armed cops to respond to any attack in the county in the right numbers and quickly. He said having armed officers patrolling areas was "part of the overall strategy".

Mr Hayward, who is responsible for the Operational Support team, which includes the armed response unit, said it had been a tough decision to make. He added: "It's not a decision I have taken likely. I would prefer not to put them on routine patrols but this is the threat we have. This is part of a menu of tactics. They are there to protect the public."

He said they would be at key locations where there are expected to be large numbers of people. He added: "They will be in mostly crowded places. But that does not rule out there being armed foot patrols in other areas. Derby County matches is one area, the city's train and bus station and the city centre are others.

"They might also be at concerts and events. I would say to the public please don't be surprised if you see them. The locations will be spread out."

He said the unit's Twitter account asked its followers whether they wanted to see armed officers patrolling the streets and he said 90% responded that they would like to see them.

He added: "We have taken that feedback on board. There has been overwhelming support for this. We have also held discussions with our partners and businesses in the area and they support it as well. If people have strong views against this then please contact us via our Facebook page or on our website. Or approach the officers and have a discussion with them. People should not be alarmed by the officers, who will be happy to talk to you if they’re not dealing with an incident. Please feel free to approach them and speak to them about their role.

"They are normal British cops who just happen to carry a gun. They will remain in close proximity to their vehicles in case they are called to the incidents they get called to. They will be calm if an incident does happen when they return to their vehicle to deal with the incident."

The Derby Telegraph has opened a poll on whether people support the new plan or not. Mr Hayward said he was keen to read the views of Derby Telegraph readers. He said: "I'm really interested in hearing the results of the poll and all of the feedback and reaction we will keep a close eye on. I'd encourage everyone to take part in the poll and have their say."