It’s now been over a week since the tragic event that unfolded on one of the world’s most famous bridges at Westminster. In the first few hours and even days, there was a lot of confusion as to what went on. The police cordon was there for well over 48 hours, guarding Westminster as a crime scene. From such investigations come facts, and it is with these that we can get moving in the right direction and see what went wrong, why it went wrong, and what can be done to prevent such attacks in the future.
In this article, I intend to analyze some of the facts and see not only what the security forces may be able to do in the future, but also if there is something we can all do to make a difference. I have been interviewed on Sky News regarding this attack, and asked about my thoughts regarding the response of law enforcement and first responders. I understand it’s very easy to sit back and critique an event afterwards from the comfort of an office. That said, on this particular occasion, there were flaws exposed, and as brave as some were in the face of danger, there is now a need to take these new lessons onboard and ensure measures are taken to enhance the wellbeing of first responders, law enforcement, and the general public during future attacks.
It took Khalistan Masood 82 seconds to mount the curb on the south bank and drive across the bridge, mowing innocent people down before coming to a halt against a wall. He then stepped out of the car, armed with two knives, and began attacking the police at the gate of Westminster Palace before being shot dead by a protection officer present on anther detail. In his wake, Masood left several injured and dead within the palace compound. He managed to stab to death PC Palmer, an ex-serviceman who tried bravely but in vain to stave off the attacker. It’s taken me more time to write this paragraph than it did for Masood to conduct his attack; that’s frighteningly quick for the amount of carnage caused. Unfortunately, anyone with access to a vehicle, knives, and a target can carry out an attack of this nature—one that will be seen the world over.
I am writing about it now, but far too much media time has been spent on this incident. It’s been a complete PR success for whichever organization was behind this. In the future, I would call for such events to have minimal exposure in the press. Sure, people need to know what has happened, but there is no need to clog every media artery with one story. Front pages should be off-limits on newspapers, and television stations and online publications should be limited to short pieces covering the basics.
Unless we stop giving these organisations sensational news coverage for these atrocities, we will continue to play straight into their hands. This radicalized no-mark-from-nowhere in particular has had more air time than even he could have dreamed about. This, I believe, is partly because the press has not had anything lately in the terror department to satisfy their need for a scoop. The security services here have forced the enemy to resort to lone-wolf style tactics. Where they have been clever is in their target selection: right at the heart of the establishment. At least the attacker here could only muster a knife, and not a sizable explosive device. That’s a massive plus.
The second point of concern I’ve found in this case is the fact that the first policeman to try to apprehend the attacker was unarmed. He is now dead. He was not even in possession of a Taser. He was at the front gate of the world’s most famous landmark, armed with his bare hands and a radio.
This is an absolute outrage. Having guarded bases all over the world, I can safely say that if I had only been offered a radio for protection, I would have, without doubt, made my excuses and left. Even if it is deemed that the first face one sees at landmarks like this should be a picture of peace, with arms wide open, there needs to be an immediate armed backup in close proximity. A man with his weapon made ready, on a single-point sling, ready to drop anything at a moment’s notice. The shooter in this instance showed intent all the way over the bridge, driving at over 70 miles per hour as he piled into innocent bystanders. As he rounded the corner to continue his attack, he should have been met with a headshot and two more to his heart to make sure.
From there, the palace should have been locked down until the cavalry arrived. Many people have called for all of our policemen to be armed. I spoke to an instructor at a police school and he told me of all the men and women officers he asked, only 50 percent of them would want to be armed. To give a man a gun who does not want one is as dangerous as leaving him without. I think instead, the police need a recruiting policy that states openly that, at some point, any serving member of the force may be required to carry a firearm. This would weed out the chaff from the start. But at present, there are serving policemen and women who would not wish to have anything to do with any sort of weapon. In time, I hope this will change. I believe that nowadays you cannot protect anyone unless you have the right equipment to deal with every single scenario as well as is humanly possible.
What can you do as an everyday Joe going about your business? Number one, if you hear any sort of commotion—glass breaking, wheels screeching, people screaming, or anything untoward—you need to immediately think terror attack and try to establish exactly what is happening and how you can get out-of-the-way. To aid you, if you are in prime locations for such an attack or at an event that would make a great target, lose your earphones, stay off the texting, and switch on a little. Your ability to react to anything life threatening is severely impaired if the music is up loud and your head’s in a screen. How many times have you bumbled into people who just aren’t aware of their surroundings?
Featured image courtesy of npr.org