London's police force is putting more armed officers on the streets — a visible response to attacks by Islamic State-inspired groups in Europe.
Metropolitan Police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe said Wednesday he's increasing the number and the visibility of the officers "to protect the public from all manner of threats."
"In some of our big iconic locations, we've already got armed patrols — if you look at Parliament, Downing Street — so it's not entirely new," he said. "I think people understand that where you are going to have people as enemies who've got guns, we've got to have guns."
Londoners are proud that most police do not carry guns, and the fundamental principle remains unchanged. Even with the changes, most of London's 31,000 police officers will not be armed.
But the recent attacks underscore the challenge police face in responding to situations in which may be outgunned. Their deployment came after Hogan-Howe warned recently an attack in Britain was a case of "when, not if."
There are 5,639 authorized firearms officers in forces across England and Wales as of March 31. Some 600 officers are boosting the existing London force of 2,200 firearms officers in the coming months.
The Met has already said the number of armed officers will go up in London by 600 to 2,800.
And a further 900 armed officers are planned to be in operation for the rest of England and Wales.
But Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said it may take two years to fully train the 1,500 recruits planned nationally.
"When you're recruiting 1,500 it's going to take a lot of time. You've got to find the resources, the facilities and the people,"
Authorities announced plans to increase the number of officers trained to carry guns after the attacks at a nightclub and in restaurants in Paris last year
This week Londoners and tourists out enjoying the August sunshine in central London report over all re assured feeling about more armed police patrolling the city's streets.
Teacher Julie Banks, who was visiting from Liverpool, says she finds the news reassuring, "especially at this time of year when there are more tourists and crowds. We shouldn't be complacent".
Retired friends John Lee and John Coles, both from London, agree. "It's a good thing. It's not going to stop a terror attack, but it makes people feel more secure," Mr Coles says.
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