Defending Our Defenders: Preventing Far-Right Extremism in UK Security Forces

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With an increasing focus on far-right extremism globally, the threat both to and within the security forces must be considered. This paper addresses this challenge in the UK context, focusing on the police and military services, and offers practical guidance and recommendations.

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Recent high-profile cases from national and local security forces, as well as critical reviews of internal cultures, indicate that the UK’s security forces are under threat from far-right extremism. The analysis highlights the following four critical areas for reform:

  1. Vetting processes are essential. However, it seems that there remain significant gaps and challenges in effectively identifying potential extremists. This poses a considerable risk, particularly as far-right organisations strategically infiltrate security forces, exploiting organisational similarities and cultural overlaps.
  2. Training emerges as a critical area for prevention. The need for continuous, well-structured training programmes is emphasised, with a focus on addressing hypermasculinity and racism. Fostering a culture that counters stigma around mental health is also identified as a crucial factor in reducing radicalisation risk, aligning with the broader goal of building resilient and adaptive security forces.
  3. Accountability mechanisms within security forces are equally important, especially in the face of an evolving extremist threat. Transparency, consistency and leadership support in enforcing consequences for misconduct and extremist ideologies are highlighted.
  4. Separation from the police or military is identified as a critical phase of vulnerability to radicalisation. Comprehensive support programmes, including mental health assistance, exit interviews and tailored interventions, are highlighted as crucial for successful reintegration into civilian life.

Addressing these challenges is vital to building the resilience of the UK’s security forces against extremist influences.

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Claudia Wallner

Research Fellow

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Dr Jessica White

Senior Research Fellow

Terrorism and Conflict

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Dr Simon Copeland

Research Fellow

Terrorism and Conflict

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