Police may have to shoot terrorists behind the wheel to stop them using vehicles as weapons in attacks, the national lead for armed policing has said.
Armed officers have previously been told not to shoot drivers of moving vehicles because of the risk of potential additional dangers.
But their tactics may have to change and become “more aggressive” following attacks in Nice, Berlin and most recently in Westminster, during which four pedestrians and a police officer were killed.
Simon Chesterman, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), said: “We’ve seen some very horrible and different tactics lately involving vehicles and lorries.
“Within our policy, we used to talk about not shooting at a moving vehicle because of the danger we might cause if we fired at a driver.
“But if the vehicle is being used as a weapon in the first place, there aren’t many tactics available in relation to stopping it, particularly a very large lorry.
“Driving a vehicle in front of it for example is not going to stop it. So you need to shoot the driver.”
Officers now have ammunition to penetrate doors and windows, he said.
American tourist Kurt Cochran, 54, retired window cleaner Leslie Rhodes, 75, Spanish teacher Aysha Frade, 44, and Romanian tourist Andreea Cristea, 31, were killed after a car driven by terrorist Khalid Masood ploughed into crowds on Westminster Bridge on 22 March.
PC Keith Palmer, 48, was stabbed in the chest outside the Houses of Parliament by Masood, who was then shot dead by armed police.
Mr Chesterman said: “We have the ability to move much quicker to resolve situations. Previously the approach was to locate, contain and neutralise. Now it is to locate and confront.
“Our tactics are more aggressive.”
To tackle the rising threat of terrorism, the number of firearms officers in England and Wales has increased by 640 – largely financed by a £143m Home Office programme.
The plan is to recruit around 1,500 extra officers in total by the end of next year.
Some of these will specialise in responding to ongoing terrorist incidents.
Mr Chesterman continued: “Officers who serve as part of firearms units are volunteering themselves for an immensely difficult and dangerous role that will put them in harm’s way.
“They naturally have concerns about the impact their job could have on their families.
“They need to know they will be supported in the rare instance that they might discharge their firearm,” he added.