London still has “significantly” fewer firearms officers available than normal after hundreds turned in their guns in protest over the prosecution of a police marksman for murder, even though some have now resumed gun-carrying duties, the head of the Met Police has said.
Sir Mark Rowley, Head of the London’t Metropolitan police warned on Tuesday that the force faces “difficult choices” because of ongoing staffing shortages.
Hundreds turned in their weapons permits after an officer was charged with murdering Chris Kaba last year.
Sir Mark said officers were “extremely anxious” following the charge.
While the number of available firearms officers is “strengthening”, Sir Mark said there had been a “very significant effect on our capability” over the weekend.
He continued: “We can provide credible firearms cover for London, but I must be honest, it’s still significantly less than normal, which would create some difficult choices.
“And it is aided by other forces, officers that have filled some of those gaps.”
Armed officers are called out more than 80 times a week, he said, but it is very rare for a police officer to fire their weapon.
Sir Mark has previously said armed officers fear facing years of investigation when they use their weapons “even if they stick to the tactics and training they have been given”.
The BBC was told up to 300 armed officers had turned in permits allowing them to carry weapons over the weekend, out of a total of more than 2,500 armed officers in the Met.
It came after an officer – who has only been identified as NX121 – was charged by the Crown Prosecution Service over the shooting of Mr Kaba.
The unarmed 24-year-old was shot and killed following a police pursuit in Streatham Hill, south London, on 5 September, 2022.
His death sparked protests and his family have welcomed the decision to charge the officer.
The government has ordered a review into armed policing guidelines, which is expected to conclude by the end of the year.
Soldiers were temporarily put on standby to assist with armed counter-terrorism policing but were stood down on Monday.
The firearms officers row puts more pressure on Sir Mark, who is trying to renew trust in the Met months after a scathing report labelled the force institutionally racist.
There was praise from the author of that report, Dame Louise Casey, who told the London Assembly she was hopeful Sir Mark could turn things around.
But Dame Louise also said trust and confidence in the UK’s largest police force was moving in the wrong direction, especially among those who are black, Asian and non-white.
Nonetheless, Sir Mark does have allies within the Met who believe he has a “tough, take-no-nonsense approach” that is needed to change a troubled police service.
Source: BBC. AOL.