Europe’s police reconsider weapons
Paris – — One was a young policewoman, unarmed on the outskirts of Paris and felled by an assault rifle. Her partner, also without weapons, could do nothing to stop the gunman. Another was a first responder with a side arm, rushing to the Charlie Hebdo offices where a pair of masked men with high-powered weapons had opened fire on an editorial meeting. Among their primary targets: the armed police bodyguard inside the room.
With the deaths of the three French officers during three days of terror in the Paris region and the suggestion of a plot in Belgium to kill police, European law enforcement agencies are rethinking how — and how many — police should be armed.
Scotland Yard said Sunday it was increasing the deployment of officers allowed to carry firearms in Britain, where many cling to the image of the unarmed “bobby.” In Belgium, where officials say a terror network was plotting to attack police, officers are again permitted to take their service weapons home.
On Monday, French law enforcement officials demanding heavier weapons, protective gear and a bolstered intelligence apparatus met with top officials from the Interior Ministry. An official with the ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing talks, said automatic weapons and heavier bulletproof vests were on the table.
Unlike their British counterparts, French national police are armed although their municipal counterparts tend to be weaponless. But Michel Thooris, of the France Police labor union said they are not permitted to have their service weapons while off duty, raising the possibility that they could be targeted when vulnerable or unable to help if they stumble across crime afterhours.
“The conditions we have now are clearly exceptional,” said Fons Bastiaenssens, a police spokesman.