The Metropolitan Police could be deploying armed foot patrols in London areas where “gang activity is likely” to prevent violence.
Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, told the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee on Thursday that armed officers could take a “short foot patrol” during “extreme circumstances” to deal with serious outbreaks of violence.
She added that the practice would not be routine. Instead, it would only be done in “unusual circumstances” when the threat of gang violence is “imminent”.
The patrols would be carried out by officers from armed response vehicles that routinely patrol London and they would provide support to neighborhood police and specialist teams.
Ms. Dick said that armed officers were “already” getting out of this vehicles to support unarmed colleagues at violent incidents. She insisted that the practice would only be “half a step on” from the current situation and it would represent a “small change in tactic in extreme circumstances”.
Sir Stephen House, the Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner, told the same hearing that the patrols were a part of a series of tactics that Scotland Yard was considering to “get ahead of the violence”.
“Any deployments would be for a limited time only and done in consultation with local policing commanders, and after a community impact assessment had been carried out.”
According to Ms. Dick, an email for a limited consultation had been sent to a number of community figures in London. However, it is acknowledged in the email that the plan could be counter-productive.
Len Duvall, the leader of the London Assembly Labour Group and a former chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said that while people were used to armed officers at iconic sites, patrols on ordinary streets would create a different atmosphere.
He also questioned why there had only been limited consultation, fearing that the practice would “sneak out and become the norm”.
Armed foot patrols had already been deployed once in London in 2009, after a surge in gun crime. However, Scotland Yard was forced to abandon the scheme after it provoked a furious reaction from local communities as they had not been consulted in advance.
The current plan has also ignited a huge controversy among Londoners.
The Govt is to blame for undermining the police with devastating cuts. But the response cannot be ever-increasing Americanisation of our police. That would threaten our entire history of policing by consent https://t.co/CP6H8Bqo68
— Diane Abbott (@HackneyAbbott) November 29, 2018
VETO VETO VETO
We do not need more death. Certainly not more death at the hands of armed police (because it will happen – and we all know who is most at risk).
Met Police could put armed squads on foot patrol to tackle gangs https://t.co/lUrpeP6ed3
— ⛅️ anise ⛅️ (@anise44) November 29, 2018
We cut police, now we have an outbreak of crime. This was predictable & preventable. Solution? Armed officers? In 2018, US police killed 876 civilians. But at this point, should officers risk their lives to deal with a problem born of Tory ideology? https://t.co/UEsx336uS2
— Laura Meyer (@lauramath) November 30, 2018
A spokesperson for Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said: “Keeping Londoners safe is the mayor’s number-one priority and the Met are constantly looking to update how they tackle violent crime.
“However, the mayor is crystal clear that armed officers on London’s streets must be the exception and cannot become the norm. He would expect full consultation on any decisions of this nature.”
Words: Leyi Chen | Subbing: Fiona Patterson