There is “significantly less” armed police cover than normal in London, the head of the Metropolitan Police has warned, after a revolt by officers.
Sir Mark Rowley admitted the force faced “difficult choices” after hundreds of officers stood down from firearms duties following a murder charge against one of their colleagues.
Cover has been drafted in from neighbouring forces and the military could be used in the event of a terror attack, but soldiers do not have the authority to be used in routine policing.
Downing Street has insisted Londoners remain safe following the interim firearms support measures arranged by the Met Police.
But the Met Commissioner told a London policing board meeting on Tuesday: “We can provide credible firearms cover for London but I must be honest, it’s still significantly less than normal which will create some difficult choices.”
Sir Mark said numbers were “strengthening” aided by other forces sending officers which have filled some of those gaps, but added there was a “very significant effect on capability” over the past weekend.
The crisis has emerged after a police officer was charged with murder over the shooting of 24-year-old Chris Kaba, who was killed in September last year in Streatham Hill, south London.
Si Mark said firearms officers are “extremely anxious”, which was partly being driven by the concerns of their families.
He said: Many of them are under pressure from their partners, wives, husbands, parents, children, who actually are saying ‘I’m worried about what you might go through based on your job. I’m not sure we’re up to this as a family given the severity of it and the longevity that it might go’.”
“The core of this issue is a real personal anxiety,” he continued.
“We have three different types of firearms officers… the numbers who have said ‘I’m not sure I can carry a firearm at the moment because I’m so anxious’ has varied across those areas.”
The Scotland Yard chief said firearms officers “absolutely expect to be held to account – and recognise it is so critical for families and communities to have trust in policing”.
He has called for “sufficient legal protection” for armed officers and has welcomed a review into the situation, which Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she has ordered to ensure armed officers “have the confidence to do their job”.
“We need a system of accountability… everyone needs confidence in a system which is speedy, professional and operates absolutely without fear or favour and searches for the truth,” Sir Mark said.
“We must be held accountable to the use of force and it must be done in a way that is fair and transparent and builds trust in communities.
“It must also be done in a way that leaves officers confident to do the difficult jobs… in a way that they are confident of the process that follows.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman has said the Home Office review is expected to be completed by the end of the year.