Editorial: Cop's view on terror applies equally in NZ

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London's Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (second right), wrote an important article for the  Mail on Sunday  this week. Photo / Getty Images
London's Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (second right), wrote an important article for the Mail on Sunday this week. Photo / Getty Images

London's Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, wrote an important article for the Mail on Sunday this week. After recent terrorist atrocities in France and Germany, he observed a sense of fear that Britain will be next. "As the police officer in charge of preventing such an attack, I know you want me to reassure you," he wrote. "I am afraid I cannot do that entirely. Our threat level has been at 'severe' for two years. It remains there. It means an attack is highly likely - you could say it is a case of when, not if."

He went on to list what they were doing about it, and some characteristics of Britain that helped its security. He mentioned co-operation between the police and the intelligence agencies and alluded to plots they have recently foiled. The country's favourable characteristics, he said, were its gun controls, the fact that it is an island nation and had a largely unarmed police. "I believe this gives us a far healthier relationship with the people we police.

Our neighbourhood officers, the ones who know their local streets and names of many of the people in their communities, they are our eyes and ears."

Finally, he cited tolerance and acceptance. "Our approach to Muslims is no different because these attacks purport to be committed in the name of Islam. We don't stigmatise the millions of British Muslims ... we are a nation that accepts difference but builds communities with shared values. We should be proud of that - it is another reason why the UK is a hostile environment for those intent on terrorism. It means the vigilance of our officers is backed-up by millions more eyes and ears ..."

It is useful to hear these things from a realistic voice of law enforcement. It underlines the fact these are not mere sentiments. Tolerance, acceptance, policing close to the community and without guns on the hip are not just valued for their own sake, they make a country more secure. It is important to hear this in all countries right now because Europe's recent incidents of random terror, whether organised or by "lone wolves", can too easily be exploited for electoral benefit.

When a Donald Trump, Pauline Hanson, Marine Le Pen or Nigel Farage claim a crackdown in immigration will make their countries safer, they are in fact doing untold damage to their countries' security. There may be good arguments for reducing immigration generally but when the case is made against immigration of Muslims, explicitly or by dog whistle rhetoric, the message migrants already living peacefully in those countries receive is that they are no longer trusted and not welcome.

The danger of that message should already be evident. Though it seems to have gone unnoticed by immigration blamers, recent acts of terrorism have not been committed by new migrants but by young, first-generation descendants of migrants and their Islamism appears to be more opportunistic than religious.

It hardly needs to be said that the Met Commissioner's remarks apply to another island nation. Gun control, unarmed police, responsible politics and public tolerance can make us safer.

- NZ Herald

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