A row has erupted over the Metropolitan police after some officers turned in their firearm permits, meaning soldiers will now be drafted in to fill in the gaps.
The move – carried out by more than 100 of the 2,500 armed officers in the force – came after an officer was recently charged with the murder of Chris Kaba, an unarmed 24-year-old who died last September.
The debate has now escalated to include home secretary Suella Braverman, too.
Here’s what you need to know.
Why have officers handed in their firearm permits?
On September 5, 2022, Kaba was shot by a bullet – which went through the car windscreen – issued by a Met Police officer. Kaba died in hospital the next day.
Later reports revealed Kaba was driving an Audi which did not belong to him, and which had been connected to a gun incident the day before.
The police officer involved was suspended from duty, charged with murder and granted bail last week. Their details have been kept anonymous.
A plea and trial preparation hearing is listed for December 1, with a possible trial date to take place next September.
Some officers in the Met are now worried about how the charging of their colleague might impact them which is why they’ve decided to hand in their gun permits, according to the country’s largest police force.
The Met said: “A number of officers have taken the decision to step back from armed duties while they consider their position.”
In an update on Monday, it added that some officers returned to duties in the last 24 hours.
For context, the London Assembly said that in April, there were 2,595 authorised firearm officers in the Met, down from 2,841 in 2018.
Home Office stats say between March 2022 and March 2023, the Met Police took part in 18,257 firearm operations – that’s a third of all firearm operations recorded in the UK.
However, only 10 of these incidents included an officer opening fire at a person.
What has this got to do with the Army?
The Ministry of Defence received a Military Aid to the Civil Authorities request from the Home Office to send in Army personnel to fill in the gaps.
This is not unprecedented – soldiers stepped in to help with civil missions at the height of the Covid pandemic, and during paramedics’ strikes last year.
The Home Office asked the MoD to provide “routine counter-terrorism contingency support to the Metropolitan Police, should it be needed”.
The Met explained: “To ensure that we can continue to keep the public safe and respond to any eventualities, from Saturday evening Met firearms officers will be supported by a limited number of armed officers from other UK forces.”
What has Suella Braverman said?
Home secretary Suella Braverman spoke out about the case on Sunday, saying there would be a review into armed policing, and that the officers have her “full backing”.
“They mustn’t fear ending up in the dock for carrying out their duties,” she claimed. “Officers risking their lives to keep us safe have my full backing and I will do everything in my power to support them. I will do everything in my power to support them.”
However, this statement, issued on X (formerly Twitter) has been controversial, because this is a comment on an active murder trial.
Doughty Street Chambers’ barrister, Adam Wagner, reposted her comment and said: “I think this series of tweets is inappropriate in the context of a live criminal case where an officer has been charged.
“It gives the clear impression, given the image in the linked article, that the Home Secretary is expressing an opinion on the Chris Kaba case.”
The i’s Ian Dunt told Sky News that he was “startled” by Braverman’s intervention, too.
He said journalists are told to be really careful when there’s live court proceedings, never mind cabinet ministers.
He claimed: “That’s a completely unjustifiable intervention by the home secretary and something we should be a little more alarmed about.”
How has the Met responded?
Braverman’s review has been welcomed by Met chief commissioner Sir Mark Rowley.
He said while it was correct they were held to the “highest standards”, the current system undermines his officers, as they end up being investigated for “safely pursuing suspects” and they therefore needed more legal protection.
He said he would make “no comment” on any ongoing legal matter but said these issues “go back further” than the Kaba case.
He said: “Officers need sufficient legal protection to enable them to do their job and keep the public safe, and the confidence that it will be applied consistently and without fear or favour.”
However, he acknowledged that when officers act improperly, the system “needs to move swiftly” rather than “tying itself in knots pursuing good officers through multiple legal processes”.
Rowley has promised repeatedly to reform the force since getting into the role, and has vowed to robustly remove rogue officers in the Met.
It comes after years of scrutiny towards the force. A review released only in March this year called for immediate change or for the force to be broken up, claiming it was institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic.