Suella Braverman has backed armed police after a member of a firearms team was charged with murder, saying officers must not fear “ending up in the dock”.
The Home Secretary said she had launched an official review days after an armed policeman was charged with murdering Chris Kaba, a 23-year-old black man, who was shot dead driving through south London last November.
The Sunday Telegraph revealed yesterday that counter-terrorism specialists are among a growing number of Metropolitan Police officers who have handed in their weapons in anger at the move.
This morning Ms Braverman tweeted: “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.
“That’s why I have launched a review to ensure they have the confidence to do their jobs while protecting us all.”
Firearms teams who man crucial Armed Response Vehicles are also refusing to work, it is understood.
One firearms officer told The Sunday Telegraph: “I have never known so much anger among my colleagues.”
Officers working for SCO19 - the specialist firearms unit - told their bosses they were no longer willing to carry guns the day after a Met officer appeared in court charged with murdering Mr Kaba, who was unarmed when he was shot dead.
The Met has more than 3,000 firearms officers across a number of units, but the loss of so many at once has led to concern over the ability of the force to meet its duties and keep the public safe.
One source said: “These officers are highly trained professionals who take their role and responsibilities extremely seriously, but they are simply no longer willing to take the risk of going to work with all the dangers that represents and also run the risk of being charged with murder.
“Lots of them have simply had enough and are saying it is just not worth it any more.”
On Thursday an armed officer, who has only been identified as NX121, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court and also the Old Bailey charged with murdering Mr Kaba on September 5 last year.
He was given conditional bail and is expected to stand trial next year.
Just hours after he appeared in court, Sir Mark Rowley, the Met Commissioner held a meeting with around 70 firearms officers concerned about the development.
‘Bravery comes in many forms’
Following the meeting Sir Mark issued a statement in which he said: “They were understandably anxious as they consider how others may assess their split-second decisions years after the event, with the luxury of as much time as they want to do this, and the effect this can have on them and their families.
“As I continue my work today, our firearms officers are on patrol deployed on proactive crime and counter-terrorism operations as they are every day.
“They are not only prepared to confront the armed and dangerous to protect London’s communities but they do so recognising the uniquely intense and lengthy personal accountability they will face for their split-second operational decisions.
“Indeed, I understand why many of them are reflecting on the potential price of such weighty responsibilities. Bravery comes in many forms.
“When officers have the levels of uncertainty and worry I saw in my colleagues today, simply going in and doing their jobs not knowing what incidents are ahead of them is courageous.”
A Met spokesman denied that the development was having an impact on the force’s ability to carry out its protective duties and keep Londoners safe.