Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has demanded increased legal protections for officers after a revolt by armed police left the Army poised to fill in.
Soldiers are on standby for armed police after scores of London officers stood down from firearms duties following a murder charge against one of their colleagues.
Sir Mark welcomed a review into the situation by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, and said in a letter to her “let the police police”.
Here’s his letter in full:
Dear Home Secretary,
I welcome your announcement earlier today that you will be launching a review into how police officers are held to account when force is used. You will know from our previous discussions that it is an area that I believe is long overdue for reform to address a number of imbalances.
In the UK we proudly police by consent, embracing the principles of accountability, transparency and independent scrutiny. It is essential that we have a system which commands the confidence of officers and the communities they serve.
Of course, where wrongdoing takes place the public expect us to be held to the highest standards. I have been clear on this in all areas of policing, and the use of force must be no exception.
The system that judges officers’ actions should be rooted in integrity and decisions should be reached swiftly, competently and without fear or favour.
A review is needed to address accountability mechanisms, including the policies and practices of the Independent Office for Police Conduct and the Crown Prosecution Service, ideally with a focus on the threshold for investigating police use of force and involvement in pursuits.
The review announced today is therefore a very welcome development.
I have spoken publicly in recent weeks about the need to let the police police. Our commitment to delivering change in the Met is unflinching and we are making positive progress, but that progress is undermined by a system not set up to help officers succeed. I have identified pursuits and use of force as areas where we see the most glaring unfairness.
I make no comment on any ongoing matters that are sub judice but the issues raised in this letter go back further.
Accountability matters, but we should not have allowed ourselves to develop a system where police officers get investigated for safely pursuing suspects, just because the suspect acts recklessly and as a result injures themselves or someone else.
This is unfair on our officers and discourages them from chasing down criminals.
Armed officers know they need to justify their actions, especially when lethal force is used. They are extremely well trained and an intrinsic part of their training reinforces that shots can only be fired if absolutely necessary to save life.
Officers are individually responsible and accountable for their actions. Consequently we have one of the safest models of armed policing in the world.
Sir Mark Rowley QPM
New Scotland Yard