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Met in firearms recruitment crisis as just six officers sign up

Between 150 and 250 hopefuls apply every time armed officer posts were advertised
Between 150 and 250 hopefuls apply every time armed officer posts were advertised - SAMANTHA PEARCE/PA

Scotland Yard’s firearms unit is experiencing a recruitment crisis after just six officers applied to join, The Telegraph can reveal.

Becoming an armed officer has traditionally been seen as one of the most desirable and prestigious roles in policing, with between 150 and 250 hopefuls applying every time the posts were advertised.

Competition for places has meant the Metropolitan Police was able to choose only the very best candidates, with successful officers joining the elite unit after making it through a rigorous selection process.

However The Telegraph understands that plummeting morale has resulted in a collapse in interest among officers wanting to carry firearms.

Sources said that the Met’s most recent recruitment drive for its Specialist Firearms Command MO19 saw just six applications, the lowest number on record.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said the recruitment process was “ongoing”.

The Metropolitan Police has around 2,500 Authorised Firearms Officers (AFOs), who patrol the capital 24 hours a day keeping the public safe from armed criminals and terrorists.

They are all volunteers and they do not receive any extra pay for carrying out the dangerous role.

But between April and December last year more than 250 AFOs left the unit – representing one in ten of the overall number.

Without new applicants coming forward to fill those vacancies, there is mounting concern that MO19 could struggle to meet its commitments.

Acute resourcing crisis

The Telegraph understands that the recruitment problem has become so acute that the Met has invited applications from officers who are still in their probation, although they would have to be fully qualified before they were able to join.

The growing resourcing crisis comes in the wake of the decision to charge a firearms officer with murder following the shooting of unarmed black man, Chris Kaba, in September 2022.

The officer is due to go on trial in September and faces the prospect of being jailed for life if convicted.

So far he has only been identified as NX121 in order to ensure his safety, but on Friday his anonymity is due to be lifted during a hearing at the Old Bailey.

Last year after he was charged hundreds of his colleagues handed in their weapons in protest, resulting in the Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, putting the army on standby.

There is also anger within the ranks over protracted disciplinary investigations that follow armed incidents even if the officer is cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

Last year it was revealed that a Met firearms officer was to face a gross misconduct charge eight years after shooting dead an armed gangster who was trying to spring two prisoners from Wood Green Crown Court.

The officer, known only as W80, had been told he would not face criminal charges over the 2015 incident, but could still be sacked following an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

A firearms source said: “It is no surprise that officers are not applying to join armed policing. They look at what is going on and they quite rightly ask themselves ‘Is it worth it?’

“Not only do they face great danger in confronting armed criminals and terrorists but they could also end up being charged with murder and being sent down for life.

“Alternatively they could spend years suspended from their job dealing with a disciplinary issue simply for doing the job they signed up for.”

Dropping standards

Another source added: “My concern is that if the morale within MO19 is not addressed as a matter of urgency, selection standards will drop and ultimately if they cannot get enough decent volunteers, they are paving the way to making the carrying of firearms a compulsory requirement.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Charmain Brenyah, from the Met’s Specialist Firearms Command, said: “Firearms officers play a vital role in ensuring that the public and unarmed colleagues are protected from the most severe and very real threats faced on a daily basis.

“Taking on the additional responsibilities of being a firearms officer is voluntary in this country due to the very real additional risks the role entails.

“We know many firearms officers are concerned about how the role could impact them and their families and we are pleased the Home Office is carrying out a review into police accountability.

“Accountability will always be crucial, however, it must be an accountability system that officers, and the public, can see fairly takes into consideration and gives appropriate legal protection to the unique role we ask armed officers to undertake.”