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:
The new ‘anti racist policing culture’ of the @metpoliceuk sees armed officers agitating in support of the officer charged the murder of Chris Kaba. Apparently they want the unfettered right to shoot Black people without question. Outrageous @apavoices https://t.co/RQCcs390LK
— African, Caribbean and Asian Lawyers For Justice (@BameFor) September 24, 2023
A police officer who shot dead Chris Kaba has been charged with murder. Trial by jury will follow. Met armed officers handing in their tickets are in effect saying if we cannot have impunity to shoot a man we won't play anymore. https://t.co/4gVMr4EQE1
— Gyll King Post Skip Diplomacy (@GyllKing) September 24, 2023
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
Suella Braverman is backing armed police officers who want to be free to shoot the unarmed yet remain above the law. https://t.co/4N62PAoQ7e
— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) September 24, 2023
Police monitoring group Netpol described Braverman’s plan as an attempt to “offer firearms officers impunity”:
It looks like the Home Secretary is eager to offer firearms officers impunity. This is, in effect, political interference in an ongoing court case https://t.co/y5WnMStHIU
— Netpol (@netpol) September 24, 2023
Others shared similar views:
A live case, yet this Home Secretary propagates that police officers should be above the rule of law, essentially a ‘license to kill’ with no accountability or respect for due process https://t.co/ebFUdJb0Yz
— Aamer Anwar✊🏾🏳️🌈#BlackLivesMatter (@AamerAnwar) September 24, 2023
It was disturbing enough to see firearms officers walk out in response to one of their peers being held to account for using lethal force.
But it makes me shudder to see the Home Sec and the Met Commissioner indicating support for a more lenient approach to accountability.
— Mandu Reid (@ManduReid) September 25, 2023
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:
🧵It’s interesting that in all of the interactions I’ve had over the years with serving and ex police officers they have never denied being in a gang.
Firearms officers handing in their ‘cards’ tells us all we need to know about these petulant children. Casey warned us. 1/7 pic.twitter.com/yYds0IcmSt
— Michael Morgan (@mikecmorgan) September 24, 2023
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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