Canterbury Cathedral and Lakeside to get armed police patrols

Canterbury Cathedral, Image copyright Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Image caption Canterbury Cathedral is one of the places armed police will protect

Police armed with guns are to patrol routinely in Kent, in locations including Canterbury Cathedral, Dover port and the Bluewater shopping centre.

The move follows recent terrorist attacks in Europe, but is not in response to specific intelligence.

The armed presence is intended as a deterrent and to allow an immediate response in an emergency, police said.

The Kent force's approach has been criticised as being likely to worry people rather than reassure them.

The force shares a joint taskforce with Essex Police and armed patrols will also be instigated at London Southend Airport and the Lakeside shopping centre.

The move comes amid high national threat levels and Kent Deputy Chief Constable Paul Brandon said it would enable police to react quickly if necessary.

'Get used to it'

"Tragically, what we have seen in France and other areas that it's in the first hour that there is large numbers of casualties," he said.

But Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent, said there were better ways to police the county.

"I have been to Belgium recently where there are armed police everywhere, but when you talk to Belgians they are far more scared than previously.

"I would rather Kent Police had a more low-key approach. The real deterrent is always behind-the-scenes, intelligence-led policing."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Armed officers will be carrying Tasers as well as firearms

Mr Brandon, who has described the terror threat facing the county as "unprecedented", said officers were currently being redeployed from other tasks and the number of firearms officers would be increased over the next 12 to 18 months.

"There are officers at this moment going through a very stringent selection process," he said.

The British police on routine armed patrol

Kent Police has not said how many armed officers it will deploy but the government announced in April there would be an extra 1,500 across England and Wales and the Metropolitan Police has said the number of armed officers will go up in London by 600 to 2,800.

Kent Police Federation said the deployment was an unprecedented increase for the county.

But its chairman Ian Pointon said the public were used to seeing armed officers at airports and London railway stations and would get used to this.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The number of armed officers has yet to be confirmed

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