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Met chief demands legal protections for officers amid armed police revolt

Met chief demands legal protections for officers amid armed police revolt

Scotland Yard’s chief 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 Metropolitan Police officers stood down from firearms duties following a murder charge against one of their colleagues.

The force’s commissioner Sir Mark Rowley welcomed a review into the situation by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, and said in a letter to her “let the police police”.

Sir Mark Rowley in conversation with Sir Trevor Phillips
Sir Mark Rowley wrote a letter to Home Secretary Suella Braverman (James Manning/PA)

More than 100 officers have reportedly handed in permits allowing them to carry weapons, prompting Scotland Yard to turn to the military for assistance.

The crisis has emerged after an unnamed officer was charged with murder over the shooting of unarmed Chris Kaba, 24, who was killed in September last year in Streatham Hill, south London.

Mrs Braverman said she had ordered a review to ensure armed officers “have the confidence to do their job”.

Sir Mark suggested legal changes over the way self-defence is interpreted in police misconduct cases, the introduction of a criminal standard of proof for unlawful killing in inquests and inquiries and changes to the threshold at which the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) can launch an investigation.

He said in the letter: “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 (CPS), 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.”

Sir Mark called for time limits for IOPC and CPS processes to “reduce the punitive impact” on officers facing lengthy investigations

He also suggested more contextual information about incidents could be released “to ensure public confidence in policing”.

The senior officer added: “There is a concern on the part of firearms officers that even if they stick to the tactics and training they have been given, they will face years of protracted legal proceedings which impact on their personal wellbeing and that of their family.

“While previous reviews have been announced, they have not delivered change.

“Carrying a firearm is voluntary. We rely on officers who are willing to put themselves at risk on a daily basis to protect the public from dangerous criminals including terrorists.

“Officers need sufficient legal protection to enable them to do their job and keep the public safe, and the confidence that it will be applied consistently and without fear or favour.”

A Met Police spokesman said: “The Ministry of Defence has agreed to a request to provide the Met with counter-terrorism support should it be needed.

“This is a contingency option that would only be used in specific circumstances and where an appropriate policing response was not available.

“Armed forces personnel will not be used in a routine policing capacity. We will keep the need for the support under constant review.”

The Ministry of Defence said: “We have accepted a Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) request from the Home Office to provide routine counter-terrorism contingency support to the Metropolitan Police, should it be needed.”

The Home Secretary said: “We depend on our brave firearms officers to protect us from the most dangerous and violent in society.

“In the interest of public safety they have to make split-second decisions under extraordinary pressures.

“They mustn’t fear ending up in the dock for carrying out their duties. Officers risking their lives to keep us safe have my full backing and I will do everything in my power to support them.”

A Met Police officer appeared in court on Thursday in relation to the death of Mr Kaba, who died after being shot through an Audi car windscreen.

The officer accused of his murder is named only as NX121 after a district judge granted an anonymity order.