In light of recent controversy surrounding armed police officers and the use of lethal force, Partner Amjid Jabbar and Solicitor Advocate Abigail Ashford argue that transparency and accountability are vital if the Metropolitan Police is to resolve its troubled relationship with the public.

Amjid and Abigail’s article was published in The Times, 12 October 2023, and can be found here.

Chants of “no justice, no peace” at the Metropolitan Police is nothing new to a force all too used to its tactics being challenged by protesters. But when the battle cry emanates from within its ranks, it exposes the internal turmoil roiling the UK’s largest police force as the Met’s senior leadership precariously balances public opinion with officer morale.

Triggering this latest ferment was a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to charge an officer with murder for the shooting of Chris Kaba last year. Scores of armed police handed in their weapons in a show of solidarity for their colleague.

Downing their guns was itself cause for public concern, given what it said about the officers’ attitude towards the CPS and the Independent Office for Police Conduct, on whose evidence the charging decision had been made. Of more concern is the growing rift between the Met’s senior leadership and the officers on the front lines.

The subsequent interventions by the Met’s commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, and the home secretary, Suella Braverman, prompted even greater alarm, after both publicly undermined the CPS and the police conduct office. Despite having stated his commitment to reform of the Met following Dame Louise Casey’s damning review in March, Rowley’s response to the officers’ protest was to call for a review of the policies of both prosecutors and the complaints body, as well as of the threshold for the legitimate use of force.

Rowley’s implied criticism of the murder charge was echoed by Braverman, who ordered a review of armed policing, stating that officers “who have to make split second decisions . . . mustn’t fear ending up in the dock for carrying out their duties”. Like Rowley, she had no hesitation taking an unequivocal stance, despite the damage her words and actions wrought in terms of public confidence, as well as in morale among Met officers.

The firearms officers’ protest confirmed the rift between frontline officers and the high command. Braverman’s intervention then insinuated that the government’s sympathies lie with the force, suggesting there is little impetus for serious reform at any level.

But to assuage public concern over the use of lethal force, the Met will need to demonstrate significant action, via clear and well publicised reforms to how firearms officer conduct is reviewed internally. Allowing the public to see the reasons behind high-level decisions may go a long way in reducing frustrations around a perceived lack of transparency.

The Met’s troubled relationship with the public will not be solved overnight, but greater public visibility of the Met’s internal decision-making may serve to reduce the opacity that frequently surrounds the use of lethal force by the police.

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