Changing Approaches to Preventing Terrorism

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“Confronting non-violent extremism isn’t just about changing laws; its about all of us changing our approach” (David Cameron MP, Ninestiles School, Birmingham, 20 July 2015). Critically analyse whether and to what extent local police officers could change their approach

The 2011 Government Prevent strategy supports and endorses a new framework to tackle terrorism based upon 3 objectives. ‘Prevent’ will challenge non-violent extremist ideas where they create an environment conductive to terrorism.[1]  This essay will be split into two parts, the first discussing how best local police officers should work with educational institutions to challenge the ideology of extremism (1st objective), as well as the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism (2nd objective). These are both discussed within the context of police officer cooperation with educational institutions (Part of the 3rd objective). The second part of this essay focuses specifically on the importance of local police officers building ‘trust with communities, and working in partnership with them.[2] It will be shown how police officers can adapt their approach based on known failures of previous community based schemes. Finally, it is worthy to note ‘extremism’ is discussed in this essay with the definition given to it in the 2011 Prevent document as ‘vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs’[3].

Thus, the first paragraph of this essay will show the importance of ‘local police officers working with educational institutions where there are risks of radicalisation’[4]. It will be shown why educational institutions are a key focus point in confronting both non-violent extremism and its by-products. It is the belief of the home office that there is ‘evidence to indicate that some extremist organisations… target specific universities and colleges with higher Islamic attendance with the objective of radicalising and recruiting students’. The Association of Chief Police Officers support the Home Office by stating those with extremist views ‘who seek to radicalise people, often target students’.[5] Indeed, similar evidence can be found elsewhere. Following the death of Lee Rigby, the Extremism Task Force stated that ‘extremist preachers use some higher education institutions as a platform for spreading their message’.[6] Taylor contends that between 2003 and 2006, ‘at least 3 Al Qaeda operations involved people who had become involved in extremism while they were at school’.[7] Partly as a result, Section 26 of the Counter Terrorism and Security act imposes a duty on all schools to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.[8] As such, it is essential that local police officers co-operate with educational facilities to put greater effort in to the challenging non-violent extremism of the ideology of terrorism.

Franks contends that if terrorism is to be effectively countered, then the root causes of violence need to be addressed and thus the key is ‘to counter the extremist ideology’.[9] Indeed, the government endorses ‘greater effort to respond to ideological challenge of terrorism’, the first of three ‘Prevent’ strategy objectives.[10] The Association of Chief Police Officers clarify the meaning of  the 1st prevent objective ‘responding to the ideological challenge of terrorism’. Accordingly, ACPO state that police officers must work in partnership with educational institutions to ‘use teaching and learning to help young people to develop the knowledge and skills to challenge extremist narratives.[11] Credit can be given to many police forces in the establishment of Safer Schools Partnerships (SSPs), in which police officers can ‘deliver a range of Prevent activities to engage students around issues of extremism’, to triumph western values of democracy and human rights.[12] Furthermore, the ‘police may be able to advise’ teachers ‘giving the confidence to manage debates about contentious issues and help develop pupils critical thinking skills.[13] Combatting the ideology of extremism and terrorism in schools is important, not because there is significant evidence to suggest children are being radicalised as ‘there is not’, but ‘because they can play a vital role in preparing young people to challenge extremism… and rebut those who are apologists [of terrorism]’.[14] Thus, police officers must help educational institutions provide a basis from which those who are most vulnerable can ‘condemn wild conspiracy theories, antisemitism and sectarianism.[15] On university campuses, ‘the majority of Prevent delivery does not involve external intervention, instead taking the form of university staff and student-union officials implementing existing institutional policies ‘informed by the guidance provided’.[16] These policies seek to combat extremist ideology by preventing hate speech, incitement or support for extremist views.[17] Beider states that only 45 and 40 percent of universities and colleges (respectively) are engaged with police officers on Prevent work.[18] It is clear, in conjunction with these higher education authorities, local police officers should increase their engagement in higher education institution’s Prevent policies. It is yet to be seen whether the Counter Terrorism and Security Act will, having made the ‘Delivery of Prevent a legal requirement’, have an effect on the involvement of local police officers in prevent on campuses, [19]

The second imperative duty of local police officers involved in Prevent-delivery is training educational institution’s staff in identifying extremism. This corresponds with the second aim of prevent; to ‘prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure they are given appropriate advice and support.[20] Sutton comments on the role of local police officers, placing value on ‘table top exercises with educational institutions’ that ‘have students and staff role-play potential scenarios to develop an ability to detect extremist views’.[21] Credit can be given to police forces as there is evidence to show they provide the means for local officers to engage in such exercises. ‘Operation Graduate’ and ‘Operation Batchelor’, developed by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), ‘assist police officers… to create debate between students about the issues which relate to prevent, such as identifying extremist views.[22] Moving on, Sutton also advocates the development of referral mechanisms for vulnerable students.[23] For example, ‘some areas may again find that SSPs can help with the early identification and therefore support pupils vulnerable to the messages of extremism’.[24] For example, both Leeds and Bradford ‘Safer School Partnership Guidance Documents’ state that pupils most at risk of radicalisation are supported through early intervention, allowing ‘radical messages to be challenged and rejected by the school community’.[25] Support programmes such as ‘Channel’ are only to be referred to if there is very clear evidence that the pupil is being radicalised and there is no more proportionate means of dealing with the issues, such as SSPs. Finally, having shown the importance of the joint police and educational institution role in preventing pupils from being lured into terrorist activity by non-violent extremism, it cannot be ignored that police officers could seek to be more proactive in their approach to initiating exercises with educational institutions. Indeed, the government express concern in the prevent strategy review that ‘the majority of schools, or 70 percent, felt they needed more training and information to build effective resilience to radicalisation’.[26] Similarly, only 26 per cent of schools surveyed had used the police to provide information and support about Prevent’.[27]

The second part of this essay will show the importance of local police officers seeking to build trust with communities, and the importance of working in partnership with them.[28] Community orientated approaches seek the involvement, support and trust of men and women from local communities in the ‘formulation, implementation and evaluation of counter-terrorism measures to increase their effectiveness’. It will first be shown that a community based approach must be adapted to avoid previous failures. Briggs (et. al) contend that building meaningful relations with Muslim communities will require police forces listen to, and take, all their grievances seriously.[29] Significance for this point can be found in a report by the ‘Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’ which found that these grievances, either real or perceived, often form ‘the reasons why people radicalise to violence’.[30] Thus, community’s engagement can be diminished by failing to engage people on a diverse range of issues such as poverty or discrimination. Therefore, police officers should not limit their focus to extremism and terrorism[31]. Furthermore, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe commissioned a report in 2014 concluded that there is a risk of stigmatising particular communities by considering only Islam in anti-terrorism efforts, thus preventing effective community trust and partnerships.[32] Indeed, a motion passed at the April 2015 NUS conference pledged to oppose Prevent delivery on campus deeming it as ‘part of an attempt to attack Muslim people.[33] Likewise, in a speech given by the vice president of Student Affairs at the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, it was stated that Prevent itself is a racist and islamophobia agenda.[34] Ansari and Kara also level, albeit biased, criticism at Ian Blair for introducing a proposal that would have seen ‘places of worship closed… if [Imans] failed to take steps to stop certain extremist behaviour occurring’.[35] Significance for the point is found in the fact Britain was being ‘subjected to a relentless bombing campaign by the IRA, with no similar proposal for the closure of catholic churches which may have equally failed to prevent extremism and terrorism.[36] Thus, local police officers should avoid focusing solely on engagement with Islamic communities; ‘this kind of practice does not promote local community engagement; it reinforces the perception that the police are unfairly targeting Islam’ and thus have ‘a negative impact on the police reputation in the eyes of many Muslim communities’.[37]

The success of police and community trust and relationships is based on the premise that people being drawn into radicalisation can be identified by members of their own community, and thus reported to the police and provided with the relevant support or de-radicalisation. Indeed, Andrew Ibrahim’s planned terror attack was prevented ‘after members of the Muslim community, who had attended an awareness workshop on prevent, raised concerns about him to the police.[38] Conversely, Taimour al-Abdaly successfully carried out a suicide attack abroad, despite the fact ‘he had been challenged by mosque leaders in the united kingdom who did not consider it appropriate to refer him to the police’.[39] These cases indicate the scope for positive interaction between local police officers and communities, and the potential consequences should the community based approach fail. It follows that police officers should adapt their approach to maximise their understanding of communities as a basis to better engage and co-operate with them. As such, Police leaders should ensure that police officers working in communities are assigned for a long-enough period to allow them to develop a sophisticated understanding of these communities’.[40]

To conclude, it has been shown that local officers must ensure they approach both the ‘ideological challenge of extremism and terrorism’, as well as ‘prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’, with emphasis on educational institutions where the risk of radicalisation is at its highest. It has also been shown how local police officers must adapt their approach to building trust and relationships with communities.

Bibliography

  • Ansari F and Kara S (2010) Europe’s Shame: Anti Muslim Hatred p.102
  • Association of Chief Police Officers (2013) Prevent, Police and Schools
  • Beider, H and Biggs, R (2010) Promoting Community Cohesion and Preventing Violent Bradford  District Prevention Action Plan (2015) Bradford Working together to challenge Briggs R,Fieschi, C, Lownsbrough, H (2006) Bringing it Home: Community Based approaches Counter Terrorism and Security Act [2015] S26
  • David Cameron (2015)  Ninestiles School speach
  • Department for Education (2015) The Prevent Duty; Departmental Advice For Schools and Childcare Providers
  • Education.gov.uk (2014) Safer Schools Guidance
  • Franks J. in Beyer C & Bauer M [2009] Effectively Countering Terrorism p.55
  • Henry Jackson Society (2015) Accountability: Understanding Ways to Stop the Cycle of Violence
  • HM Government (2011) Prevent Strategy p1
  • Leeds Council (2015) Safer School Partnerships Guidance
  • National Police Chiefs’ Council (2015) Education Npcc.police.uk/NPCCBusinessAreas/PREVENT/Education.aspx
  • NUS National Conference (2015)  Motion 517
  • Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (2014) Preventing Terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalisation that lead to terrorism
  • Sutton R (2015) Preventing Prevent? Challenges to Counter-Radicalisation on Campus p.12
  • Taylor, P (2010) Talking to terrorists, A personal Journey from the IRA to Al Qaeda p.64

[1] Bradford  District Prevention Action Plan (2015) Bradford Working together to challenge extremism: Action Plan for Prevent delivery 2013-2015

[2] ibid

[3] HM Government (2011) Prevent Strategy p1

[4] Ibid  p1

[5] Association of Chief Police Officers (2013) Prevent, Police and Schools

[6] Sutton R (2015) Preventing Prevent? Challenges to Counter-Radicalisation on Campus p.12

[7] Taylor, P (2010) Talking to terrorists, A personal Journey from the IRA to Al Qaeda p.64

[8] Counter Terrorism and Security Act [2015] S26

[9] Franks J. in Beyer C & Bauer M [2009] Effectively Countering Terrorism p.55

[10] HM Government (2011) Prevent Strategy  p1

[11] Association of Chief Police Officers (2013) Prevent, Police and Schools

[12] Education.gov.uk (2014) Safer Schools Guidance

[13] Department for Education (2015) The Prevent Duty; Departmental Advice For Schools and Childcare Providers

[14] HM Government (2011) Prevent Strategy  p64

[15] David Cameron (2015)  Ninestiles School speach

[16] Sutton R (2015) Preventing Prevent? Challenges to Counter-Radicalisation on Campus p.38

[17] ibid p.38

[18] Beider, H and Biggs, R (2010) Promoting Community Cohesion and Preventing Violent Extremism in Higher and Further education p63

[19] Sutton R (2015) Preventing Prevent? Challenges to Counter-Radicalisation on Campus p.12

[20] HM Government (2011) Prevent Strategy  p40

[21] Sutton R (2015) Preventing Prevent? Challenges to Counter-Radicalisation on Campus p.38

[22] National Police Chiefs’ Council (2015) Education Npcc.police.uk/NPCCBusinessAreas/PREVENT/Education.aspx

[23] Sutton R (2015) Preventing Prevent? Challenges to Counter-Radicalisation on Campus p.39

[24] Education.gov.uk (2014) Safer Schools Guidance

[25] Leeds Council (2015) Safer School Partnerships Guidance

[26] HM Government (2011) Prevent Strategy p.69

[27] Ibid p.69

[28] Bradford  District Prevention Action Plan (2015) Bradford Working together to challenge extremism: Action Plan for Prevent delivery 2013-2015

[29] Briggs R,Fieschi, C, Lownsbrough, H (2006) Bringing it Home: Community Based approaches to counter terrorism

[30] Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (2014) Preventing Terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalisation that lead to terrorism

[31] Ibid

[32] Ibid

[33] NUS National Conference (2015)  Motion 517

[34] Henry Jackson Society (2015) Accountability: Understanding Ways to Stop the Cycle of Violence

[35] Ansari F and Kara S (2010) Europe’s Shame: Anti Muslim Hatred p.102

[36] Ibid p.102

[37] Briggs R. Fieschi C. Lownsbrough H (2006) Bringing it Home: Community Based approaches to counter terrorism p.35

[38] HM Government (2011) Prevent Strategy 

[39] HM Government (2011) Prevent Strategy 

[40] Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (2014) Preventing Terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalisation that lead to terrorism p.74

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