Downing guns shows armed police want ‘impunity’ to kill, critics claim

Armed police on the streets of London
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The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) charged an unnamed police officer on 20 September with the murder of Chris Kaba. However, following the murder charge, some 70 armed officers in the Metropolitan Police reportedly refused to carry firearms. They claimed they were “understandably anxious” as a result of the decision. By 25 September, that number had increased to more than 100, out of 2,500 armed Met officers. 

Outside of the force, many people viewed the cops’ actions as a sign of the impunity with which armed cops expect to operate:

Read on...

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This view was thrown into sharp relief by the response of Suella Braverman. The home secretary announced on 24 September that she would launch an inquiry into armed policing as a result of the murder charge. However, she also stated that officers:

mustn’t fear ending up in the dock for carrying out their duties

Police monitoring group Netpol described Braverman’s plan as an attempt to “offer firearms officers impunity”:

Others shared similar views:

On 24 September, the Home Office wrote to the Ministry of Defence for help due to the number of officers standing down. In a process known as Military Aid to Civil Authorities (MACA), the Home Office asked for military personnel to “provide routine counter-terrorism contingency support to the Metropolitan Police” if necessary.

However, at the time of writing, the Met Police had dropped the request. In return, Netpol suggested the request was made to “heighten the sense of a crisis” and “undermine the prosecution of Chris Kaba’s killer”.

Operating like a gang

The response by firearms officers to the charge, and the Home Office’s response to their actions, appeared to highlight the power dynamics at play. In a thread on Twitter, social commentator Michael Morgan pointed out that the events have confirmed the findings of the Casey Review:

In March 2023, baronness Louise Casey published her final report into misconduct within the Met. The review was triggered after serving Met officer Wayne Couzens murdered Sarah Everard. Couzens was a firearms officer at the time of the murder.

The Casey Review found “serious concerns” in the culture of two of the Met’s firearms units. In particular, it found that those officers permitted to carry firearms held “undue influence and elevated reputations” within the Specialist Firearms Command (MO19) unit. One anonymous officer described the situation as a “boys’ club”, while another said that challenging the wrong person could leave them feeling “isolated”.

Casey found that another unit with armed police – the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection (PaDP) unit – suffered similar problems. The review described the PaDP as a “dark corner of the Met where poor behaviours can easily flourish”. It also found that senior PaDP officers wanted to “avoid cracking down” on bad behaviour by officers.

The review even covered the exact situation that occurred following the Kaba-related murder charge. Writing of MO19, Casey said:

This has led to a widely held view in the Command and in the rest of the Met that firearms officers ‘need to be allowed’ to bend or break the rules because they are volunteers who could at any point decide not to carry a firearm or ‘hand in their blue card’.

Michael Morgan said that the Casey Review revealed MO19 in particular as operating like a gang.

Police go on ‘strike’

This most recent incident is not the first time that firearms officers have gone on ‘strike’ by downing their guns. In 2004, roughly 120 officers said they’d stop using their guns after the Met suspended two officers for killing Harry Stanley. Neil Sharman and Kevin Fagan shot and killed Stanley after they allegedly mistook a table leg for a shotgun. The CPS ultimately dropped its charges against Sharman and Fagan.

Police in the UK like to claim a principle of ‘policing by consent’. However, it seems this doesn’t mean ‘by consent of the public’. Instead, it is the consent of an entrenched minority who will do what they can to avoid accountability. This is simply another example of why, as Canary writer Maryam Jameela wrote, the Met is beyond reform and we must do away with it altogether.

Featured image via Metropolitan Police/YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. Of course the reality is that the UK is one of the countries in the world where you are least likely to be killed by the police.The worst country by a long way is the socialist paradise of Venezuala ,beloved by Corbyn and Livingstone.Even the USA only comes 33rd in the list .Still lets abolish the Met and make London a safer place for drug dealers,gangsters and terrorists.The next time a terrorist attack takes place we can send in a crack team of Canary journalists to sort it out.Dont expect an Ambulance if it all goes tits up though ,cos we aint going anywhere near an armed incident without police protection.

      1. Oh, you love your fellow humans, don’t you? It seems you did not even read the above article before pasting your love for fascist, aggressive cops into a comment. Sure, the only slightly socialist Venezuela has a lot of cop killings, but the worst by far is fascist-governed Philippines, followed by Brazil. Do get your facts straight before commenting. Police abolition is necessary, but it does not mean we are unprotected from people who are determined to cause us harm. Take a look at

      2. Such ridiculous sentiments, without knowing anything about the ins and outs of the argument.
        In the armed forces, there is a thing called the green card. These show the rules of engagement and it was often a bone of contention when it stated that you are not allowed to fire unless your, or somebody else’s life is in danger. By then it is too late.

      3. You’re a (obviously right-wing) bellend, you prick. With a name like that you must be another neuvo rich Indian, like the ones in the shitty Tory govt. ‘I’m alright Jack’, is it? Given the poverty in the dub-continent, you lot are the masters of that particularly odious outlook. Stick to the Mail comments page, you prick.

    2. I read the article and I thought it was tripe.If you think British police are Fascists you live in an alternative universe.Britain is one of the very few countries where the police are usually unarmed,I would love to see you or one of the other playtime revolutionaries trying to deal with a knife wielding maniac armed only with your platitudes.Of course perhaps you think we could have a sort of peoples militia where class enemies can be put up against a wall and shot without having to go through the rigmarole of a fair trial as practiced by Lenin,Trotsky,Che Guevera et al.By the way I was referring to police killings per capita but I admit that Brazil and the Phillipines police kill far far more people than the British police,thank you for reinforcing my point about how lucky we are in this country.

      1. I suppose it’s fine for you until the police mistake you carrying a table leg for being armed with a shotgun and then murder you.
        It seems strange to me that you would justify any injury or death of a citizen at the hands of the police as acceptable. Just because police in other countries have worse records doesn’t excuse police in Britain from facing criminal charges when they act outside of the law.
        This should not be a race to the bottom of what is acceptable.
        Surely you must agree that British police should set the highest standards for other countries to follow – zero mistakes, zero injuries, zero deaths and 100% effective de-escalation of potentially violent situations.

    3. The police are not perfect of course they are not.Any organisation which employs thousands of people,be it the police the armed forces or the NHS will make mistakes .The Canary though thinks the majority of police officers go out every day to see how they can harm people.This is obviously cobblers.Met Police armed response officers attend 100s of incidents every year.In the vast majority of these cases they dont even discharge their weapons let alone shoot anyone so to say that the police are a bunch of trigger happy cowboys who want to kill with impunity is a straightforward lie.In a perfect world the police would never make mistakes,unfortunately the world is not,never has been and never will be perfect.

      1. Yet when a police officer “makes a mistake”, it should be determined if they did indeed make a mistake or were committing a crime. The way to do this is through a court of law to determine if they committed a crime or not, just like you would try anyone else responsible for causing someone’s death.

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