Introduction To The Series………….
Protecting the public remains the highest priority of the Police Service but the growth of international terrorism over recent years has resulted in the publics’ protection being severely threatened. No community is immune from the global reach of international terrorism and the UK is a prime target for Al-Qaida and its affiliates. It is therefore necessary that police colleagues have an awareness of counter terrorism issues.
The way in which we police terrorism is developing in response to the enduring threat. This area of policing is no longer the sole responsibility of specialist departments, we all have a part to play. But what do you know and understand about terrorism? What do you know about terrorist organisations and how they operate? And how can you develop your policing skills to assist in countering terrorism?
In this series we aim to provide you with an awareness of the guiding principles used to police terrorism. We will be delving into a subject which was once shrouded in secrecy. We will not however be disclosing sensitive policing tactics but we will be sharing knowledge and expertise in this field which you may not have had regular access to before.
To counter terrorism effectively we need to broaden our knowledge and understanding of terrorism itself. In this first article of the series we therefore focus upon the concept of terrorism, looking specifically at its definition, classifications and key characteristics. These are the initial building blocks of knowledge we require to understand terrorism so that we are better prepared to counter its threats.
Concept of Terrorism
Terrorism is nothing new, its origins can be traced back in time for centuries but it remains a much contested concept to this day. Academic opinions remain divided upon its most accurate definition. A clear legal definition of terrorism is however provided by Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
The legal definition is broad and is designed to capture the diverse range of activities associated with acts of terrorism. But how does the definition really help us to understand what terrorism actually is?
First and foremost terrorism is a crime, one which has serious consequences and requires to be distinguished from other types of crime, but it is a crime nonetheless. The key features of terrorism that distinguish it from other types of crime are its core motivations. Terrorism may be driven, as the legal definition states, by political, ideological or religious objectives. These objectives are unlike other criminal motivations such as for personal gain or in the pursuit of revenge. Terrorists may be driven by any one or any combination of the three core motivations but the primary motivator is political, as individuals who are driven by religious or ideological beliefs have to gain some political ground to compel others to conform to their point of view. Acts of terrorism therefore convey a message, a message that attempts to persuade us or to force us to accept the view and beliefs of others. Terrorism is a very powerful way in which to promote beliefs and has potentially serious consequences for society. If allowed to grow and flourish terrorism can undermine national security, it can cause instability to a country, and in the most extreme of circumstances can lead to war. These are a very different set of outcomes when compared against the outcomes of other types of crime. This is the very reason why policing terrorism is different to policing other types of crime and why it requires a different approach to prevent and detect it as we will discuss later in this series.