- Martin Evans, crime correspondent
3 AUGUST 2016 • 8:55AM
The latest face of anti-terror policing in London has been unveiled as a new batch of highly trained officers prepares to take to the streets.
With mounting concern over a UK terror attack, Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has announced that the first of 600 additional armed officers are ready to start work in the capital.
Among them are members of the Met’s elite counter-terror firearms unit who are trained to deploy around the clock at a moment’s notice to tackle marauding terrorists head on.
Equipped with SIG 516 semi-automatic carbines and Glock 9mm sidearms, the counter-terror specialists are capable of racing to the scene of any potential incident on board specially adapted BMW F800 motorcycles.
Riding pillion the officers will be able to cut through the heavy London traffic on boards the all-terrain bikes which are capable of reaching top speeds of 120mph.
The SAS style officers are also trained to carry out water borne assaults from rigid inflatable hull vessels and even abseil into situations from hovering helicopters.
The announcement of their deployment follows a string of terrorist incidents in mainland Europe and warnings from the Met chief that an attack in Britain is a matter of “when, not if”.
Announcing the measure, Sir Bernard said: “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.
“We are deadly serious about the protection that we are offering the people of London and we will never be complacent.
“That’s why I’m increasing the visibility and the number of armed officers on London’s streets, and demonstrating some of the range of tactics we already have to protect the public from all manner of threats.
Armed officers increased to protect #London against threat of terrorism https://t.co/eoJu1J0x5L pic.twitter.com/hH5MArtD1U
“I want the public to know that we have substantial resources and a range of tactics that we can call on to protect them.”
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. They are our heroes.
“We are deadly serious about the protection that we are offering the people of London and we will never be complacent
”Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe
“Despite the fact they are carrying guns they are still police officers and I want the public to approach and talk to them, they are out on our streets to reassure and help the public.
“Equally important in how we protect our capital is the relationship that our mainly unarmed officers have built with communities over many years. Our communities are a vital source of information and if you have fears or concerns then we want to know.”
French police have begun armed patrols on beaches CREDIT: SIPA/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK
But the plans come amid warnings from the Police Federation that plans to introduce 1,500 more armed officers nationally could take at least two years.
Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers 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.”
Welcoming the introduction of Operation Hercules, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, 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.
“The threat level here in London has not changed, but it does remain at severe and especially in light of recent deadly attacks in Europe it is important we are prepared should the unthinkable happen.”