The home secretary has ordered a review of armed policing after the army was put on standby to cover Met police officers who have downed their weapons.
Suella Braverman has acted to try and quell what the Guardian calls a “growing rebellion of about 100 [firearms] officers” after one of their colleagues was charged last week with murdering a 24-year-old unarmed black man.
The Telegraph states that “more than 300 officers –10% of all firearms staff – have refused to carry a gun” which has forced the Met to formally request help from the ministry of defence (MoD) to carry out counter-terror policing.
Chris Kaba was killed by a single shot to the head by an unnamed Met police armed officer last September. On Wednesday (September 20) the officer was charged with murder, prompting a protest that has seen Met police firearms officers turn in their permits to carry weapons and the army put on standby.
British special forces – including the SAS – have been drafted to cover members of the Counter Terrorism Specialist Firearms Officers who have downed their guns. The unit is ready to be deployed at any moment in response to any terrorist incident.
A spokesperson for the Met said the MoD has “agreed” to their request for counter-terrorism support “should it be needed”, adding: “This is a contingency option that would only be used in specific circumstances and where an appropriate policing response was not available.
“Armed forces personnel will not be used in a routine policing capacity. We will keep the need for the support under constant review.”
Both the Guardian and Telegraph report that the Met asked other forces “to lend it armed officers” before asking the army for help.
Responding to the police protest, home secretary Braverman wrote on social media that “we depend on our brave firearms officers to protect us from the most dangerous & violent in society”.
She continued: “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 & I will do everything in my power to support them.”
The comments have attracted criticism as strict laws govern statements that could prejudice a jury at trials and could be held in contempt of court.
Former chief crown prosecutor for northwest England Nazir Afzal expressed his outrage at Braverman’s public comments, writing on social media: “This is the HOME SECRETARY intervening in an ongoing prosecution[.]
“There is no justification for doing so[.]
“Would briefing police representatives privately not have sufficed? No, she has to publicly interfere & potentially, adversely, impact the case”.
Labour MP and lawyer Karl Turner posted: “It is incredibly ill-advised for any government minister, not least a former attorney general, and current Home Secretary to be commenting on a criminal prosecution. Any such comment risks unfairly influencing the outcome of a court case and is, potentially, a contempt of court.”