Britain’s top police officer will warn that there may not be enough armed officers to fight terrorists on London’s streets if they are not given more trust.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, who retires later this month as commissioner of the Metropolitan police, will use his last set-piece speech to make the plea.
The background to the speech is anger among armed officers at plans to toughen up the rules if they open fire and fears of being treated as suspects for years if they shoot in the line of duty.
Hogan-Howe says officers are being put off volunteering for firearms role because they dread spending years under investigation, or even being put on trial.
According to extracts of his speech to be made on Tuesday in central London, the commissioner will say the mood among armed officers represents a tangible risk. “This a dangerous place to be – in two ways,” he is expected to say. “We simply don’t have enough people now wanting to do these jobs. The failure rate in training is high.
“Secondly, we can’t afford to have officers think twice because they fear the consequences of shooting someone. That’s how they get shot, or the public gets hurt or a criminal gets away with a gun.”
The other implication of this is a direct impact on national security, according to the commissioner’s thinking. Police chiefs across Britain ordered the recruitment of extra armed officers after the November 2015 attacks on Paris by terrorist gunmen who killed 130 people. That toll, according to a brief received by British police leaders, was lessened because French police are routinely armed and could fill the streets with guns during the Islamic State attack.
Hogan-Howe ordered 600 more armed officers for London and in his speech on Tuesday will say that the force has recruited 400 extra and is on course to meet the target. Some will see in his speech the beginnings of an excuse in case that target is missed.
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