In a significant development, the Metropolitan Police have announced that they no longer require soldiers to support their firearms officers. This decision comes as the Met successfully addresses a shortage of armed police personnel in the city.
For some time, military personnel were deployed in London to collaborate with Met firearms officers, primarily on standby to respond to potential terror threats. The deployment stemmed from concerns within Scotland Yard regarding the inadequacy of police firearms officers available to handle counter-terrorism duties. This situation was exacerbated by a decision made by certain firearms officers to cease carrying weapons after one of their colleagues faced murder charges in connection with the fatal shooting of Chris Kaba in Streatham Hill last September.
A Shift in the Situation
Initially, reports suggested that up to 300 firearms officers had refrained from carrying weapons, citing concerns about the legal protection available to police dealing with armed incidents. However, Met sources later indicated that this number might have been overstated. Nonetheless, they confirmed that soldiers had been deployed to bridge the gap in their counter-terrorism firearms response teams.
A Changing Landscape
The decision to retract the request for military assistance follows a call by Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley for a comprehensive overhaul of the accountability measures governing police actions in firearms incidents and other use-of-force situations. Home Secretary Suella Braverman has also initiated a review of armed policing, emphasizing that officers should not fear prosecution for carrying out their duties when their lives are at risk.
Despite the show of support from government officials, the Metropolitan Police faced an immediate capacity shortfall in their ability to carry out counter-terrorism operations and respond to incidents involving armed criminals. To mitigate this, a limited number of armed officers from other forces were temporarily deployed to assist the Met, even though some firearms police from other regions reportedly declined to offer support in the aftermath of the recent murder charge.
The Role of Soldiers
The most significant part of this deployment involved soldiers placed on standby to respond to potential terror attacks in London over the coming days. This request for military assistance was made jointly by Scotland Yard and the Home Office, in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence. It is important to note that the soldiers were not expected to patrol the capital; instead, they were to remain discreetly out of sight unless a terrorist incident occurred. Their role was to support Met firearms officers who are routinely on standby to address any potential attacks.
The decision by the Metropolitan Police to no longer require military support for their armed duties marks a shift in their response strategy. As discussions surrounding the legal protection of officers continue and reviews of armed policing are undertaken, London’s security landscape remains a matter of ongoing concern.