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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Met 'struggles to recruit armed officers'
Gun
There has been a spate of gun murders in London
Police in London are struggling to recruit and train armed officers who are needed to curb the capital's escalating gun crime, a Metropolitan Police Federation constable has confirmed.

PC Mark Willliams said the force was having to recruit from outside the M25 boundary for the first time in its history.

This follows a recent spate of gun murders in London highlighting a disturbing growth in armed crime.

Speaking to 4x4 Reports, Mr Williams said: "We need the armed response units out on the streets. We need our specialist response units to deal with other firearm matters. If they're not there, then who's going to deal with it?

Police officer with rifle
Police in shooting incidents face tough investigations
"We've had an explosion in gun crime over the past few years.

"Gun crime is a growth industry for us in the Met.

"The officers in the armed response unit have noticed a high increase in their workload."

In 1996, Mr Williams was among 700 applicants to the Metropolitan Police Armed Response Unit. This year the number is down to just 30 and as a result specialist training courses have been cancelled.

Mr Williams said; "I think it's fair to say we've fished the pond several times now.

"We're having to look to outside forces for their officers to join the Met Police service - something we've never done before.

Low morale

"I think it's fair to say the armed response unit officers have specialist roles.

"It's always difficult to recruit into specialist roles because applicants have to fit the bill and pass courses and assessments.


Officers involved in incidents where shots are fired by police feel they are treated as if they are to blame for what's happened

PC Mark Williams
Another reason for the fall in numbers is the low morale among officers in the armed response unit.

PC Jack Frost, a former officer with the Metropolitan Police Force armed response unit, said the pressure on officers was very high, especially if a gun was fired on duty.

In 1997, Mr Frost was called out to an incident in London. He fired shots at a woman driver who was behaving in a threatening manner, waving a gun which later proved to be an air pistol.

The lengthy police investigation proved that Frost had behaved properly and the woman concerned was found guilty of attempted robbery, dangerous driving and possession of drugs.

PC Frost told 4x4 Reports: "Of course police officers need to be accountable to the public - that's what separates us from the villains.

Gun haul
Some 600 illegal weapons are seized by the Met every year
"You know you might be investigated before you take the job.

"The problem is that there is no code for the way officers being investigated should be treated and should be questioned.

"An investigation puts immense pressure on any officer. It needs to be moderated."

Mr Williams agreed that the nature of police investigations into shootings by officers could account for the lack of enthusiasm for joining armed response units.

"Officers involved in incidents where shots are fired by police they feel they are treated as if they are to blame for what's happened.

"They feel they are treated as suspects."

4x4 Reports: Gun crime was on BBC 1 on 22 July at 1930 BST and streamed live from this website.

4x4 Reports: Gun crime

See also:

04 Jan 02 | UK
02 Jan 02 | UK
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