Today, the British people are coming to grips with yesterday’s “lone wolf” terror attack in London. A single assailant plowed his vehicle through pedestrian bridge traffic, injuring 29 people and killing three before crashing into a fence outside Parliament. He then exited his vehicle with a large knife in his hand and was confronted by a veteran police officer with 15 years of experience.
In any American city, town, or village, the responding officer would likely draw his duty-issued handgun and would fire a volley of shots that would likely wound or kill a charging knife-armed attacker.
Unfortunately, PC Keith Palmer was unarmed, a backwards tradition in a post-7/11/05 world where Islamic radicalism is common in England, and the threat of terrorism is at an all-time high.
We now must instead hear about his bravery posthumously.
Friends, colleagues and MPs have paid tribute to Keith Palmer, the policeman who was stabbed to death as he guarded the Palace of Westminster from a terrorist.
Palmer, 48, was a member of the Met’s parliamentary and diplomatic protection command with 15 years of service as a police officer. The married father, believed to have been a member of the Royal Artillery before he joined the police, was unarmed when the lone attacker came charging towards him on Wednesday afternoon.
On Thursday, MPs in Westminster observed a minute’s silence in Palmer’s honour. The tribute occurred at 9.33am in honour of his shoulder number – 933.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday morning, Theresa May paid tribute to PC Palmer’s service and said: “He was every inch a hero, and his actions will never be forgotten.”
Writing at The National Review, Tom Rogan notes this failure of the outdated British model of unarmed policing in an age of extremists that can strike anywhere, anytime, with little or no warning.
While the Paris and Brussels attacks led the British to improve their response capacity to so-called roaming attacks, more must be done. Until now, the specific focus has been on investment in improved SWAT counterterrorism capabilities. But those efforts have been prioritized for London. Two immediate issues for the British are that the physical security of Parliament and the personal security of the British prime minister and the Queen are inadequate.
But further hardening of the capital’s defenses won’t solve the problem of other British localities lacking London’s counterterrorism resources. Specifically, they do not have enough armed police officers (most British police do not carry firearms). Any major attack outside London would thus likely require a response from two military special-forces units that are kept on permanent standby. But aside from small forward-deployed elements, both of those units are based in western and southern England, leaving much of the United Kingdom vulnerable.
The terrorist—still unnamed by British authorities—would have been a relatively easy target for PC Palmer, if he had been armed. This was not a close-range knife ambush on the officer, but was the culmination of an attack unfolding before him that saw the terrorist have to exit his vehicle and close in on Palmer to attack. An American rookie officer, fresh out of the police academy, would have had ample time and warning to draw, aim, and fire, dropping the terrorist in his tracks, as two armed plainclothes officers did just seconds later.
Unfortunately, PC Palmer, like most of his fellow policemen and his countrymen in general, was not trusted to exercise his natural human right to self defense, and now has lost his life as a result. Let us hope that the British government learns from this failure.