UK

Firearms coverage in London ‘still significantly less than normal’ – Met chief

Sir Mark Rowley called for reform of the ways in which officers are held to account over operations involving firearms (James Manning/PA)
Sir Mark Rowley called for reform of the ways in which officers are held to account over operations involving firearms (James Manning/PA) Sir Mark Rowley called for reform of the ways in which officers are held to account over operations involving firearms (James Manning/PA)

Firearms coverage in Britain’s biggest police force remains “significantly less than normal” after dozens of officers downed tools over the weekend.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley that while the force can provide “credible firearms coverage” for London officers will face “some difficult choices”.

Speaking at the first meeting of the London policing board, he said: “Over the weekend, it had a very significant effect on our capability. We’re now in a position where the numbers are strengthening.

“We can provide credible firearms cover for London, but I must be honest, it’s still significantly less than normal which will create some difficult choices.”

The military was put on standby to help with counter-terrorism functions and neighbouring forces provided cover after dozens of Met officers stepped back from armed duties.

Firearms officers are used for guarding key sites such as the Houses of Parliament, for proactive police operations and for counter-terrorism duties.

Sir Mark said the number who had stepped back from their duties in the wake of the prosecution of a colleague for murder had varied across the three areas.

On Monday afternoon the Met said it no longer needed military assistance after a number of officers decided to return to their duties.

Sir Mark said some were “extremely anxious” over the weekend, mainly driven by concerns from their families.

He has called for reform of the ways in which officers are held to account over operations involving firearms, other use of force or police pursuits.#

“They are frustrated that it can be five plus years later that all these accountability processes finish but they fully welcome that accountability and recognise it’s so critical for families and communities to have trust in the policing,” the commissioner said.

He went on: “The issues in terms of public debate are not simply about firearms they are about wider handling of police use of force, pursuits and other sorts of cases like that.

“Everyone needs confidence in a system which is speedy, professional and operates absolutely without fear or favour and searches for the truth.”

Sir Mark added: “We must be held to account for use of force, it must be done in a way that is fair and transparent and builds trust in communities. It must also be done in a way that leaves officers confident to do the difficult jobs.”

Out of around 4,000 armed operations run by the Met each year, one or two will see shots fired.

Sir Mark’s comments came after policing minister Chris Philp suggested that firearms officers should get paid more for carrying a gun.

He told LBC: “Chief constables deal with operational measures like who gets trained and who gets given a firearm ticket, but they do put themselves in extraordinary danger.”