HomeNewsSome U.K. police refuse their guns after officer charged in shooting death

Some U.K. police refuse their guns after officer charged in shooting death

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Some police officers in Britain’s biggest police force are stepping back from armed duties as a protest after a member of the Metropolitan Police Service was charged with murder last week in the fatal 2022 shooting of an unarmed Black man.

Over the weekend, an unspecified number of Metropolitan Police officers put down their weapons in protest after a colleague was charged with murder. The police said on Monday that some officers were no longer carrying firearms “while they consider their position.”

The police had arranged a contingency plan with the army to provide “routine counterterrorism contingency support,” should it be needed. By Monday afternoon, the police said that a “sufficient” number of armed officers had returned that they no longer needed backup from the British military.

Police officers in London launched their protest over the weekend. The BBC, citing unnamed sources, reported Monday that more than 300 armed officers had turned in their weapons permits. The Washington Post could not independently verify the figure.

The Metropolitan Police said that the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to charge an officer with murder “signals a shift in the way the decisions [that police] take in the most challenging circumstances will be judged.”

The incident comes amid broader trust problems for the Metropolitan Police. The force has come under heavy criticism for the behavior of some of its officers and for the way it investigated government parties during pandemic lockdowns. Public trust took an especially big hit after a serving London officer was convicted of murdering Sarah Everard, a marketing executive.

In comparison with the United States, a relatively small proportion of police officers in Britain carry firearms. They require a special license to do so and are deployed only in limited situations.

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The police officer, who has not been named, was charged Wednesday in the fatal Sept. 5, 2022, shooting of Chris Kaba. The 24-year-old, who was shot in South London, was driving an Audi with a license plate number linked to a “firearms incident” from the previous day, according to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which oversees England’s police forces.

An unmarked police vehicle followed Kaba until around 10 p.m., when he turned onto a road where a marked police vehicle was waiting, according to the office. Officers approached the Audi and “contact was made” between the Audi and police vehicles, the office stated. An officer standing in front of the Audi fired one shot through the vehicle’s windshield, striking Kaba.

Kaba was taken to a London hospital, where was declared dead at 12:16 a.m. on Sept. 6, 2022, according to the office.

Kaba’s family members and attorneys said that he was unarmed. Rallies in support of Kaba erupted across London. Days after the fatal shooting, the Metropolitan Police suspended the officer who fired the weapon. After the officer was charged on Wednesday, he made bail and is expected to stand trial next year.

Daniel Machover, an attorney representing Kaba’s family, said in a statement Wednesday that the charge brought relatives “some hope that justice may be served for Chris.”

“Over the past year, Chris’ family have shown extraordinary dignity and strength as they have demanded answers about how Chris was killed, and sought justice and accountability for him,” Machover said.

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The Metropolitan Police employs about 2,600 firearms officers, a small fraction of the more than 34,000 officers employed by the service.

Fatal shootings involving a police officer are relatively rare in Britain. According to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, there were three in the year leading to March 31, 2023 — one more than the number recorded in the previous year.

On Friday, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said his officers were “understandably anxious” as they considered how their future actions on duty could be judged.

“When officers have the levels of uncertainty and worry I saw in my colleagues today, simply going in and doing their jobs not knowing what incidents are ahead of them is courageous,” Rowley said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters Monday morning that police officers needed certainty about the legal powers they have.

“Our firearms officers do an incredibly difficult job. They are making life-or-death decisions in a split second to keep us safe, and they deserve our gratitude for their bravery,” he said. “Now it is important when they are using these legal powers that they do so with clarity.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman wrote on X — formerly known as Twitter — that she would launch a review to ensure police “have the confidence to do their jobs while protecting us all.”

In a letter addressed to Braverman on Sunday, Rowley wrote that a review was “long overdue.” He said the United Kingdom’s system to hold officers accountable is “not set up to help officers succeed” because of the “years of protracted legal proceedings which impact on their personal well-being.”

Rowley suggested that investigations into officers proceed faster and occur only when all the facts are reported. He also suggested that the Crown Prosecution Service provide stronger protection to officers who use force.

“Accountability matters, but we should not have allowed ourselves to develop a system where police officers get investigated for safely pursuing suspects, just because the suspect acts recklessly and as a result injures themselves or someone else,” he wrote. “This is unfair on our officers and discourages them from chasing down criminals.”

Leo Sands in London contributed to this report.

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