Image source, AFP
By Thomas Mackintosh & Tom Symonds
Up to 300 Metropolitan Police officers have stepped back from firearms duties as the Army remains on standby to support the force.
Additional officers from surrounding forces have been drafted in over the weekend to help, the Met has said.
It comes after an officer, known as NX121, was charged with murdering Chris Kaba, 24, who was shot last September.
Senior Met officers spent the weekend meeting some armed staff who have decided to “consider their position”.
But the Met has rejected media reports that all 2,595 firearms officers have stepped back from armed duties.
In a fresh statement, the Met insisted the “vast majority” of firearms officers remain deployed across London.
It comes after the Ministry of Defence said it received a request – known as Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) – from the Home Office to “provide routine counter-terrorism contingency support to the Metropolitan Police, should it be needed”.
Although the military could be used in the event of a terror attack, the Met stressed “armed forces personnel will not be used in a routine policing capacity”.
New Scotland Yard said measures will be kept under review but added that since Saturday evening extra officers have been called in from neighbouring police forces.
Senior officers remain in “ongoing discussions” to support staff, the Met said, adding that bosses want to “fully understand” concerns over the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to charge NX121.
“Many are worried about how the decision impacts on them, on their colleagues and on their families,” according to the Met statement.
“They are concerned that it signals a shift in the way the decisions they take in the most challenging circumstances will be judged.
“A number of officers have taken the decision to step back from armed duties while they consider their position.”
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) told the BBC mutual aid is “routinely used” across the country to ensure public safety.
Some forces – including Merseyside, Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Dorset, Cumbria, Durham, Greater Manchester and PSNI – have told the BBC they have not received any requests for mutual aid.
West Midlands, Avon and Somerset and Devon and Cornwall Police also said they have not sent any armed officers.
Earlier on Monday, the prime minister backed a review ordered by the home secretary over the weekend to look into armed policing guidelines.
Downing Street said the Home Office review is expected to conclude by the end of the year.
Speaking in Hertfordshire, Rishi Sunak said: “Our firearms officers do an incredibly difficult job. They are making life or death decisions in a split-second to keep us safe and they deserve our gratitude for their bravery.”
Media caption, A former Met Police firearms officer says putting troops on the street should be ”a wake-up call”
But, one former officer – who left the Met’s specialist firearms command a few months ago – told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that the risk to officers and their families “is just too great”.
Speaking anonymously, he argued that this was not a co-ordinated protest.
“What is obvious to me, they are not acting out of anger or petulance”, the ex officer said.
“These are individuals with partners and families who are incredibly committed to their profession.
“They’re incredibly concerned it’s not worth it anymore.”
He added that it would be “a very sad day” for policing if armed troops were being forced to step in to help.
Commenting on Suella Braverman’s review, Sir Mark Rowley suggested firearms officers are concerned that they will face years of legal proceedings, “even if they stick to the tactics and training they have been given”.
“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,” Sir Mark wrote in a letter to the home secretary.
But, he argued when officers act improperly, the system “needs to move swiftly”.
According to Home Office figures, between March 2022 and March 2023 the Met Police took part in 18,395 firearms operations – accounting for 20% of all firearms operations in England and Wales.
In that time, there were only 10 incidents across England and Wales when an officer opened fire at a person, the figures show.
On 5 September 2022, Mr Kaba was fatally hit by a gunshot fired by a Met Police officer into a vehicle in Streatham, south London.
The construction worker, who was months away from becoming a father when he was shot, died in hospital the following day.
It later emerged the Audi Mr Kaba was driving, which did not belong to him, had been linked by police to a gun incident the day before.
His death prompted a number of protests.