The Prime Minister has said armed police need “clarity” about the legal powers they have as he backed a Home Office review after an officer was charged with the murder of Chris Kaba.
Soldiers are on standby for armed police after scores of Metropolitan Police officers stood down from firearms duties following the charge against one of their colleagues.
The force’s commissioner Sir Mark Rowley welcomed a review into the situation, which Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she had ordered to ensure armed officers “have the confidence to do their job”.
The Scotland Yard chief said armed officers needed “sufficient legal protection to enable them to do their job”.
Rishi Sunak said it “wouldn’t be right” for him to comment on the case of the unnamed officer charged over the shooting of unarmed rapper Mr Kaba, 24, who was killed in September last year in Streatham Hill, south London.
But the Conservative Party leader said the guidance to firearms patrols needed to be reviewed to “make sure it is robust” and that it commands both public and police confidence.
It comes after a Met Police officer appeared in court on Thursday in relation to the death of Mr Kaba, who died after being shot through an Audi car windscreen.
The officer accused of his murder is named only as NX121 after a district judge granted an anonymity order.
Since the charge was announced, more than 100 officers have reportedly handed in permits allowing them to carry weapons, prompting the Met to turn to the military for assistance.
The Prime Minister, speaking to broadcasters during a visit to a community centre in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, on Monday, said: “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.
“Now it is important when they are using these legal powers that they do so with clarity and they have certainty about what they are doing, especially given the lethality they are using.”
In an open letter to the Home Secretary published on Sunday, Met boss Sir Mark suggested legal changes over the way self-defence is interpreted in police misconduct cases.
He also put forward the introduction of a criminal standard of proof for unlawful killing in inquests and inquiries, along with changes to the threshold at which the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) can launch an investigation.
Sir Mark said: “There is a concern on the part of firearms officers that even if they stick to the tactics and training they have been given, they will face years of protracted legal proceedings which impact on their personal wellbeing and that of their family.
“While previous reviews have been announced, they have not delivered change.
“Carrying a firearm is voluntary. We rely on officers who are willing to put themselves at risk on a daily basis to protect the public from dangerous criminals including terrorists.
“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.”
Sir Mark called for time limits for IOPC and Crown Prosecution Service processes to “reduce the punitive impact” on officers facing lengthy investigations.
He also suggested that more contextual information about incidents could be released “to ensure public confidence in policing”.
The Metropolitan Police Federation, the group which represents officers from the rank of constable to chief inspector in the Met, offered Sir Mark its support following the publication of his letter.
The federation said: “Colleagues should not fear for their liberty and livelihoods for simply doing the job the public expect of us.”
Ministers have looked to assure that the public will be kept safe after the armed forces were put on standby to assist the Met.
The force has confirmed that the Ministry of Defence has agreed to a request to provide it with counter-terrorism support “should it be needed” as a “contingency option” if an “appropriate policing response was not available”.
The Met said armed forces personnel will not be used in a “routine policing capacity” under the arrangement.
Housing minister Rachel Maclean told LBC: “They will be doing everything they can – these are trained professionals, and their job is to put themselves into harm’s way in the line of duty.”
She denied that armed officers were stepping away from protecting the public, telling Sky News their decision to hand back their firearms permits was likely to have been taken “reluctantly”.