London’s police force will deploy an additional 600 armed officers across the capital to protect against the threat of attacks, authorities have announced.
The threat level in London remains at “severe” and the increase is not due to any specific intelligence but is a long-term response to a spate of deadly attacks across Europe.
“Anyone who’s been following events in Europe over the past few weeks will understand why we want to show our determination to protect the public,” the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said.
In line with British policing methods, the majority of London police officers do not carry firearms.
“The reality of having to deal with armed and deadly attackers is that you need firearms officers who will use force to stop those attackers in their aim. Our firearms officers are the ones who will run towards the danger,” said Hogan-Howe.
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The additional armed officers will be visible to the public and will work across London, both on foot and in vehicles.
The mayor, Sadiq Khan, said: “The safety and security of all Londoners is my first priority, and our police and security services is working incredibly hard every day on our behalf.
“We will see more armed officers on our streets, but there is no reason to be alarmed. All of our police officers are playing their part and working closely with all of our communities to prevent the possibility of an attack.”
Khan added that every London ward would have a dedicated police constable as part of his strategy to boost neighbourhood policing and build trust in communities.
The Police Federation chairman, Steve White, has said it could take at least two years to get additional firearms officers in place. Some forces are also struggling to get volunteers of sufficient quality to go through the rigorous selection and training process.
White said: “Some forces are getting volunteers coming forward, but they are not always being selected because they don’t meet the criteria. It is vitally important that standards are maintained. The best-case scenario is two years in terms of recruiting an extra 1,500 officers.
“If there is an attack it is unlikely to be an isolated incident. We’ve got to have the resources around the country because it might happen in multiple places at the same time.”
Home Office figures for the year to March 2016 showed that the number of armed officers in England and Wales dropped by eight, but police chiefs have insisted that forces are on track to get the extra marksmen in place over the next 18 months.
London was hit by coordinated suicide bombings on 7 July 2005, when four Islamist extremists targeted three underground trains and one bus, killing 52 people.
Since then, numerous plots have been foiled and there have been smaller-scale attacks, such as the killing of an off-duty soldier on a street in south London by two extremists in May 2013.