Soldiers are being deployed to fill capability gaps today after the United Kingdom’s small cadre of trained firearms officers are handing in their guns after one of their colleagues was charged with murder over a police operation gone wrong.
Update 09/25/23 — Army Stood Down as Firearms Officers Return to Work
A number of firearms officers reconsidered their relinquishing of their duties on Monday, with enough returning to work for the British Army support for the Metropolitan Police to be stood down. Describing the military support as a “contingency option”, the force said discussions were ongoing and a “number of officers… have now returned”, meaning they have enough marksmen available to provide counterterrorism policing.
UPDATE: The number of Met firearms officers who have returned to armed duties is now sufficient for us to no longer require the assistance of the Ministry of Defence for counterterrorism. pic.twitter.com/ZvpznujZj5
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) September 25, 2023
Read the original report below:
While the vast majority of British police officers are not firearm trained and carry only a taser or equivalent device on patrol, trained marksmen within the force fulfil a variety of special roles, including diplomatic protection, counter-terrorism, protection of airports, and serious crime response. Because the number of officers with that training is comparatively small, the hundreds of officers reported to be renouncing the role is making fulfilling the London Metropolitan Police’s duties impossible.
Firearms officers are volunteers from within the ranks and can step back at any time.
A formal request was made by the Metropolitan force to the Ministry of Defence for support, meaning soldiers are being called in to fill gaps in counter-terrorism policing roles. While soldiers being drafted in to bolster police marksman numbers if remarkable, it is not unique: British soldiers became a common sight around key central London locations in the past decade after a series of terror attacks.
Police officers have started handing in their firearms — with more than 300 officers now refusing to carry a gun, the Daily Telegraph reports — since one of their colleagues was charged with murder. An officer identified only as NX121 after he was granted temporary anonymity by a judge appeared in court last week, having been charged with murder after the shooting of Chris Kaba in Streatham, London, on September 5th last year.
Officers attempted to stop a car that was believed to have been involved in a firearms offense the previous day, and during the stop the SUV-type vehicle proceeded to “collide” with a police car. This has been characterized in some reports as “raming” past a police car, and driver Kaba was subsequently shot dead through the windscreen with a single round that struck him in the head.
It is understood firearms officers are concerned the decisions they are required to take daily as part of their job — including using lethal force — puts their own liberty at risk, and consequently continuing in the role is not worthwhile. The Metropolitan Police said in a statement at the weekend: “A number of officers have taken the decision to step back from armed duties while they consider their position. That number has increased over the past 48 hours.
“We are in ongoing discussions with those officers to support them and to fully understand the genuinely held concerns that they have.”
Tony Long, a former Met firearms officer who is well known for having been charged with murder over the shooting of a suspect in 2005 — only being cleared after a marathon ten-year legal battle — spoke to London broadcaster LBC on Monday and said police officers did not want to “live outside the law” and the decision to hand in their firearms now was not a impulse decision, but had been brewing a long time.
Speaking of another instance of an officer hauled through a lengthy and personally damaging procedure after a shooting in the course of duty, he said the case against him was thrown out of court after three years of waiting, saying “How did it get to that stage, it’s beyond belief” and that officers get no support from the force.
Long, who shot five people and killed three in the course of his duty, said: “Command don’t care about the people under them… think when people get to a certain rank they owe no loyalty to anyone other than their own promotion prospects. It’s not about the Chris Kaba incident, this has been building up for ages. It’s about a lack of trust from the people going out to do the job.”
The Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who has overall responsibility for policing in the United Kingdom, said she supported firearms officers on Monday morning, writing the “brave” officers take “split-second decisions under extraordinary pressures” to protect the public and should not have to fear being pulled into court for doing their job. She announced a review.