Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the government is considering multiple measures, including sending police protection when meeting with constituents at regular town hall-style events. “For the government and me, this is about safeguarding our democracy and enabling our elected representatives to carry on doing what they do, serving the public,” she added.
However, the justice secretary, Dominic Raab, has said an increase in private security is a better option to boost safety, citing concerns that having police officers could have a chilling effect as constituents meet with their elected representatives. So it is likely that MPs will be offered more private security guards at surgery events in the near future.
The killing of British Lawmaker Highlights Risks to Elected Officials Around the World
This is not the first attack on British lawmakers. In 2016 Jo Cox, a Labour lawmaker was killed while meeting constituents, and in 2010, Stephen Timms, another Labour lawmaker, survived a serious stabbing at a similar meeting. Following those attacks, MPs in Britain were offered panic buttons, extra lighting, and additional locks and emergency fobs for their homes and constituency offices. Spending also increased from £170,576 in 2015/16 to £4.5m in 2018/19.
But attacks on elected officials are not unique to the U.K. Over the past 20 years, attacks on parliaments worldwide seem to be increasing, putting elected representatives at a greater risk than ever before.
On December 13, 2001, an attack on the Parliament in New Delhi, India, led to the deaths of six Delhi police officers, two parliament security personnel, and a gardener. More than 100 people, including major politicians such as the Home Minister and the Minister of State for Defence, were inside the parliament building at the time.
A gunman opened fire on soldiers standing on ceremonial guard surrounding Canada’s National War Memorial in Ottawa, Canada, on October 22, 2014. The shooting left one person dead, raised questions about parliamentary security and sparked a national debate on terrorism.
Five people were killed and about 40 people injured in London on March 22, 2017, after a car ploughed into pedestrians close to Britain’s parliament. According to then Prime Minister Theresa May, the attack location was no accident. “The terrorist chose to strike at the heart of our capital city, where people of all nationalities, religions and cultures come together to celebrate the values of liberty, democracy and freedom of speech.”
In Ottawa, Canada, on July 2, 2020, an armed intruder drove through the gates at Rideau Hall, close to the official residence of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. While neither the prime minister nor his family was not home at the time, the incident did illustrate how easy it is for an armed person to get close to top government officials.
Who can forget the mob who attacked the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021? According to reports, 140 police officers were assaulted by rioters during the attack, while members of Congress hid in offices to avoid injury.
In Wellington, New Zealand, a lone man wielding an axe attacked the parliament building on January 13, 2021, although no politicians were present at the time. In 2019, the climate change minister James Shaw was assaulted while walking to the parliament house in Wellington, prompting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to warn that the easy accessibility of politicians should not be taken for granted.
Twelve people were killed and dozens injured in twin attacks in Tehran on the Iranian Parliament and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s shrine on the 7th of June 2021.
Protecting Security Officers Who Protect Politicians
While some view these attacks as an attack on democracy itself, it is the safety of elected representatives that is paramount. But what can be done to protect elected officials going forward who pride themselves on their approachability and ability to contact and meet with local voters? Women politicians, in particular, are frequent targets of online threats and insults.
Before his death, David Amess was particularly concerned about misogynistic threats to female MPs. Since his murder, many members of the parliament in the UK called for “David’s Law,” which would place limits and penalties on anonymous social media use.
With public anxiety at an all-time high, security officers are an excellent option to consider as their presence, especially during the pandemic, has become a welcome sight as tempers flare and nerves fray in long queues outside retail shops, or when visitors are only provided with limited access to healthcare facilities. Cloud-based security workforce management software can help protect security officers, including lone workers, from harm with features like real-time incident reporting and video recording, GPS tracking, checkpoint tours, real-time communication between security managers and frontline officers, and panic buttons.
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