The decision of hundreds of Metropolitan Police specialist firearms officers to hand in their gun licences focused attention on the sacrifices that we ask these officers to make.
The revolt followed a decision of the Crown Prosecution Service to charge one of their number with murder following a shooting incident last year in which Chris Kaba, 24, was killed by a single gunshot as he was driving in south London. His death led to protests from local people and an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
While firearms officers expect to be held to account for the split-second decisions they are expected to make – and do not regard themselves as above the law – the prospect of facing a murder charge alarmed many. Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, has ordered a review to establish the limits of the legal use of lethal force. Rishi Sunak said armed officers “deserve our gratitude for their bravery” and that it was important officers had “clarity” over the legal powers under which they operate.
But that will not help the officer currently arraigned, known only as NX121. He has had to wait a year for the IOPC to complete its investigation and the CPS to decide on a charge. A trial is not likely until next year, prolonging his ordeal.
Sir Mark Rowley, the Met commissioner, says his officers lack “sufficient legal protection” and face years of legal proceedings “even if they stick to the tactics and training they have been given”. Political interference in prosecution decisions is rightly unacceptable. But the CPS must see the furore caused by its decision and reconsider whether the public interest warrants proceeding.