‘Worried’ firearms officers in the Metropolitan Police are handing in their guns after a force marksman was charged with murder of an unarmed man.
Chris Kaba, 24, died in Streatham Hill, south-east London, in September last year after he was shot through an Audi car windscreen. The officer accused of his murder, named only as NX121 after an anonymity order was granted by a district judge, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court and the Old Bailey on Thursday.
The force has now confirmed that a number of officers have “taken the decision to step back from armed duties” and that this number “has increased in the last 48 hours”. However, it said it continues to have “armed officers deployed in communities across London”.
It comes after the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has said firearms officers are “understandably anxious” after a force marksman was charged with the murder of Chris Kaba. Sir Mark Rowley said he has met with 70 firearms officers who operate all across London after the murder charge, and understands “why many of them are reflecting on the potential price of such weighty responsibilities”.
The Met Commissioner also said officers were anxious “as they consider how others may assess their split-second decisions years after the event, with the luxury of as much time as they want to do this”.
In a statement, Sir Mark said: “This week a Met firearms officer was charged with murder following the fatal shooting of Chris Kaba. I cannot talk about that case specifically as proceedings are very much active and I am mindful of the impact this is having on all those directly affected.
“On Thursday I met with 70 firearms officers to reflect on the events of this week. Like me, they understand the importance of transparency and accountability, and recognise the awful effect on everybody involved on the very rare occasions when lethal force is used by the police.
“That impact is exacerbated by the very slow speed that investigations, trials, inquests and hearings run at, meaning the lives of everyone affected are on hold for many years. They were understandably anxious as they consider how others may assess their split-second decisions years after the event, with the luxury of as much time as they want to do this, and the effect this can have on them and their families.
“As I continue my work today, our firearms officers are on patrol deployed on proactive crime and counter-terrorism operations as they are every day. They are not only prepared to confront the armed and dangerous to protect London’s communities but they do so recognising the uniquely intense and lengthy personal accountability they will face for their split-second operational decisions.
“Indeed, I understand why many of them are reflecting on the potential price of such weighty responsibilities. Bravery comes in many forms.
“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.”
Since then, the Met Police has admitted a number of officers have “taken the decision to step back from armed duties”.
In a statement, the force told Sky News: “”Senior officers, including the Commissioner, have been meeting with firearms officers in recent days as they reflect on the CPS decision to charge NX121 with murder.
“Many are worried about how the decision impacts on them, on their colleagues and on their families. They are concerned that it signals a shift in the way the decisions they take in the most challenging circumstances will be judged.
“A number of officers have taken the decision to step back from armed duties while they consider their position. That number has increased over the past 48 hours.
“We are in ongoing discussions with those officers to support them and to fully understand the genuinely held concerns that they have. The Met has a significant firearms capability and we continue to have armed officers deployed in communities across London as well as at other sites including Parliament, diplomatic premises, airports etc.”
In the moments before the shooting, Mr Kaba had driven into Kirkstall Gardens and collided with a marked police car. The officer fired one shot and hit Mr Kaba in the head.
Police watchdog the IOPC found Mr Kaba was unarmed at the time of the shooting. They officer involved has not been named publicly after an application for anonymity was granted in court.
Recorder of London Mark Lucraft KC told the marksman that a plea and trial preparation hearing will be listed for December 1, with a possible trial date of September 9 next year. NX121 was released on bail on the conditions that he lives at a named address, surrenders his passport and does not apply for international travel documents.