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Why the British 'Run, Hide, Tell' terror attack response is flawed

A public policy and safety model that openly displays an aversion to the use of force in self-defense may embolden, encourage terrorists


As a result of the reporting on the London Bridge terror attack, we've become aware of the British public awareness campaign to "Run, Hide, Tell" in the wake of an active killer event.

Tell? Tell who, the unarmed policeman?

Certainly, in this modern age of terrorism, we need to rethink this strategy.

Certainly, in this modern age of terrorism, we need to rethink this strategy. (Photo/NPCC)
Certainly, in this modern age of terrorism, we need to rethink this strategy. (Photo/NPCC)

Limitations of citizen response models

These public awareness campaigns are not as influential as we might think or want them to be. However, if we're going to spend the money, time and resources to promote them, then we owe the public the best that we can give them. I don't think "Run, Hide, Tell" is adequate.

I've previously discussed my reservations about the "Run, Hide, Fight" model that is popular in the United States. It suffers from several flaws, one of which is that it doesn't give the user permission to choose to fight early in the decision cycle, when the tactical circumstances demand it.

Run and hide are frequently the best options for unarmed and untrained people, but the grim reality is that sometimes they are the worst options and only an immediate fight response is appropriate.

While I have issues with the way that the fight option is prioritized and timed in the "Run, Hide, Fight" model, at least it's in there. I advocate for "Move! Escape or Attack!", but would greatly prefer "Run, Hide, Fight" to the British model. In that model, a fight or attack option is completely absent, and that's unacceptable.

Cultural differences in the use of force

If you subscribe to the theories of Natural Rights and Natural Law, then you believe that life is precious and every man is justified in using force to defend his life against unwarranted aggression. Our Founding Fathers were heavily influenced by these classic, liberal philosophies and enshrined them in the documents which created and govern our nation, discussing "unalienable rights" such as "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," and recognizing a right to keep and bear arms to achieve these ends.

While we sometimes struggle with these concepts in America today, our culture predominantly recognizes a right to self-defense, including armed self-defense. Sadly, these values are not held in the same esteem in contemporary English society.

The average British citizen has long since been disarmed by his government and the use of force in self-defense is treated with such hostility by the legal system that even legitimate and moral uses of force are immediately suspect. In recent years, numerous high-visibility cases have demonstrated that the British legal system is biased against those citizens who would take up arms in their own defense, including improvised arms, even under justifiable circumstances.

This extends to British law enforcement, as well. The majority of British police officers are not trusted with lethal force tools and the officers who are actually equipped with firearms operate in a culture where their use is highly discouraged by authorities. In comparison to the discretion that American police are given to use lethal force, the British police seem handcuffed.

The nation which gave us men like Hobbes and Locke, the English philosophers most responsible for promoting the theories of Natural Rights and Natural Law, has turned its back on the notion of armed defense. The result is that even in a model that's intended to promote survival in the wake of a violent, armed attack, the British government and police still can't quite bring themselves to use the word fight.

Winston Churchill, in a 1940 address "We Shall Fight on the Beaches", told the House of Commons, "We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

Imagine what Winston Churchill, who exhausted the use of the word fight, would think of a government that was afraid to say it now.

Fighting back allowed others to run, tell

With "Run, Hide, Tell," the British government and police have withheld their approval for the public to consider the use of force in their own defense. They have tacitly declared that the government maintains a monopoly on the use of force and that only government personnel should be allowed to use force to stop an attack. Additionally, they have promoted the fiction that they can respond quickly enough to stop an attack, if only they are notified by the public.

Yet, in the end, there may be no other alternative for the public but to fight. Running and hiding may work, depending on the circumstances and a person's proximity to the epicenter of an attack, but for some people, there will be no suitable alternative but fighting. Telling the police may eventually result in a suitably-armed response, but in the intervening minutes, approximately eight, in the most recent London Bridge attack, the unopposed threat will continue to murder and maim.

Individual police officers and citizens figured this out in the opening moments of the latest London Bridge attack. A policeman armed only with a club confronted the three knife-armed killers and was badly injured. Another unarmed, off-duty officer tackled an attacker and was also badly injured in the process.

Many courageous citizens threw objects or grappled with the attackers, using all the tools at their disposal to stop the killers. Some of these brave defenders were also badly injured by the attackers with their superior arms.

Yet, despite the fact that these defenders were unable to completely stop the attackers, they bought precious time for others to escape, barricade and summon help. Because some people fought, others had the opportunity to run, hide and tell. Why won't the British acknowledge this in their public safety model?

Words have consequences

The recent attack at the London Bridge is the latest in a string of terror attacks that have plagued the United Kingdom. Less than two weeks ago, an attacker detonated a bomb outside a concert in Manchester, killing 22 and injuring 119. Just ten weeks prior, an attacker used a vehicle to run over pedestrians at London Bridge, and then stabbed an unarmed policeman outside Parliament. This latest trio of attackers must have taken notes on that previous London Bridge attack and improved the plan with the addition of more personnel and fake bomb vests to enhance their chances of success.

In the wake of these events, the British need to ask themselves if adopting a public policy and safety model that openly displays their aversion to the use of force in self-defense is a wise move. Is it possible that "Run, Hide, Tell" is not only inadequate as a safety model, but also an encouragement to evil people looking to harm innocents? Is it possible that the British are emboldening these attackers by failing to demonstrate their resolve and their commitment to confronting evil with force?

I know what Churchill would say.

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