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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 November, 2004, 18:00 GMT
'Vulnerable' officers are right to protest
The decision to suspend two police officers five years after they shot and killed a man in a London street has sparked unprecedented protests from firearms officers.

Tony Judge, former editor of Police Magazine, explains why the case has hit a raw nerve with ordinary police officers throughout the country.

It is the action of the force in suspending officers from all police duties that has caused so much upset.

Harry Stanley
Harry Stanley was returning from the pub when he was shot
It is understandable if officers are suspended from firearms duties - which is sometimes unavoidable when a shooting occurs.

But these two officers have been suspended from all duties five years after the event.

After the first inquest verdict, in most cases, there is no need to go any further.

In this case the first inquest was appealed against successfully and a second coroner's jury has had a go at the inquest.

They have brought a verdict of unlawful killing, which has led to the Crown Prosecution Service having a further look at the available evidence. Subsequently the two officers have been suspended.

It is a matter of interpretation whether they had to be suspended. I'm very surprised that the Commissioner said there was no option, but that's the view the force has taken.

The feeling is that officers are in a very vulnerable position
Internally the force has already accepted that the officers have done nothing wrong, so it is hard to see why they cannot continue with their duties. It is an overreaction by the force.

Whenever an incident like this happens there is a great deal of agitation to call for the heads of the officers concerned.

From time to time various officers have faced trial on very serious charges and been acquitted, but that hasn't compensated for the horror they have gone through.

The feeling is that officers are in a very vulnerable position.

Because of the high profile nature of firearms duties there is always a public outcry when the police fire their weapons.

There is a natural inclination for officers not to volunteer for firearms duties.

As a result the number of officers who volunteer is less than required by increasing gun crime.

If this continues, we could all face a very dangerous situation.



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