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Report 10 of the 24 May 2007 meeting of the Equal Opportunities & Diversity Board and outlines the work of CO19, the MPS Specialist Firearms Command, providing details of how CO19 supports BOCUs, while ensuring effective community engagement.

Warning: This is archived material and may be out of date. The Metropolitan Police Authority has been replaced by the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC).

See the MOPC website for further information.

Diversity issues within the Specialist Firearms Command (CO19)

Report: 10
Date: 24 May 2007
By: Assistant Commissioner Central Operations on behalf of the Commissioner


This report outlines the work of CO19, the MPS Specialist Firearms Command. It provides details of how CO19 supports BOCUs, while ensuring effective community engagement. The report describes CO19’s workforce, its challenges and successes as well as initiatives being undertaken to make the OCU more representative of London’s communities. Lastly, this report records how CO19 supports its personnel involved in major incidents.

A. Recommendations

That members note the report.

B. Supporting information

Role of the Specialist Firearms Command

1. The Specialist Firearms Command sits within Central Operations and is the strategic lead for operational, policy and training issues relating to the police use of firearms within the MPS. In addition, CO19 contributes to the national fight against terrorism and plays a major role in the development of specialised tactics around explosive entry and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) issues.

2. CO19’s strategic intention is to support Capital City Policing and the delivery of the MPS Mission of working together for a safer London by:

  • providing firearms support to BOCUs to maintain safer neighbourhoods
  • providing firearms support to OCUs and agencies involved in combating the risk from terrorist activity and those involved in reducing the level of gun enabled crime
  • providing high quality firearms training to the MPS, which is compliant with the Codes of Practice on the police use of firearms
  • providing a robust and efficient Firearms Licensing system
  • assisting to ensure that all armed policing is compliant with the Codes of Practice on the police use of firearms
  • assisting to improve internal and public awareness of, and support for, the work of armed police officers in London.

3. CO19’s principle business areas are:

  • to provide firearms support for spontaneous firearms incidents
  • to provide firearms support for authorised (pre-planned) firearms operations
  • to provide code compliant firearms training to the Metropolitan Police Service
  • to provide a robust and efficient firearms licensing system
  • to manage, review and develop the policies governing the MPS police use of firearms. To ensure all policies comply with Home Office Codes of Practice on the police use of firearms and less lethal weapons, and are commensurate with ACPO guidance and other statutory legislation
  • influence and contribute to the national development in armed policing.

Service delivery

Firearms support

4. CO19 provides firearms support through 3 main groups:

  • Armed Response Vehicles (ARV) - this group of uniformed officers provide a 24/7 proactive and reactive patrol capability as first responders to any incident within London that might involve the use of firearms or persons who are so dangerous that conventional policing methods are not likely to be effective. They patrol in marked vehicles and their number and geographical focus varies according to statistical demand. In the financial year (fy) 2006-2007, ARVs responded to 12140 calls that resulted in 2170 deployments, meaning that armed officers actually undertook some form of positive action to resolve the situation
  • Tactical Support Teams (TST) - Tactical Support Teams provide both covert and overt proactive support to other OCUs and BOCUs. Most of their work is authorised (pre-planned) as opposed to spontaneous and much of it involves supporting surveillance as well as arrest and search operations. In the fy 2006-2007, TSTs undertook 280 deployments
  • Specialist Firearms Officers (SFO) - Specialist Firearms Officers are highly and multi skilled officers capable of delivering all elements of firearms policing including rapid intervention and hostage rescue. Officers from the SFO teams have additional responsibilities including Explosive Method of Entry. In the fy 2006-2007, SFOs undertook 407 deployments.

Firearms training

5. Centred at the purpose built Metropolitan Police Service Training Centre (MPSTC) at Gravesend in Kent, CO19 delivers initial and continuation training for all firearms officers within the MPS, which includes Royalty Protection, Diplomatic Protection, aviation security, armed surveillance, Flying Squad and SO1 as well as ARVs, TSTs and SFOs. Recognised as a world leader in the provision of firearms training, CO19 is often called upon to provide training and familiarisation to other UK forces as well as overseas organisations.

6. CO19 Firearms Training is responsible for ensuring that training complies with the Home Office Codes of Practice as well as the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Manual of Guidance. Additionally, training needs to meet the requirements of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA). CO19 Firearms Training is independently evaluated and licensed by the NPIA and currently holds a provisional licence.

7. In fy 2006-2007, 357 students undertook initial firearms courses however the centre delivered continuation or enhanced training to 6979 others.

Firearms licensing

8. The Firearms Enquiry Team (FET) oversees the granting and renewal of firearms licenses and shotgun certificates. Where necessary, licenses and certificates are refused or revoked, the reasons for which are recorded on a database. Additionally the FET updates the relevant MPS records in the National Firearms Licensing Management System (NFLMS). Where appropriate, the FET initiate proceedings in respect of any offences disclosed.

9. The number of valid certificates, grants and renewals for the fy 2006/2007 is shown at Table 1.

Table 1 – Firearm and shotgun certificates, grants and renewals

  New Grants Renewals Valid Certificates





Shotguns 1799 4964 26811
Total 2169 5827 31436

Firearms policy

10. The Firearms Policy Unit (FPU) is responsible for researching and facilitating projects for Assistant Commissioner Central Operations (ACCO) and the Firearms Policy and Strategy Group regarding all issues relating to corporate policy and protocol development surrounding the Police Use of Firearms. As one of very few dedicated policy units within the UK, the Metropolitan Police Service are often found at the forefront of policy development regarding firearms issues and actively work with a number of ACPO working groups, providing advice and guidance on policy matters. Additionally, the FPU has been responsible for the development of Equality Impact Assessments that are discussed later in this report.

Monitoring service delivery

Firearms support

11. The principle objective for officers delivering firearms support is to create a safe environment in which conventional policing operations can take place. CO19’s role in any policing operation then is a transient one and means that measurement and monitoring contact with subjects is minimal. Some aspects of monitoring service delivery are therefore impractical, specifically the use of the 16+1 self defined ethnicity system that is discussed in more detail later.

12. Monitoring the delivery of firearms support is carried out in a number of ways. ARV officers complete written logs for every tour of duty that captures information including the number of stops or operations they have been involved in and the officer defined ethnicity of any persons involved in those stops. SFO and TST officers make records of the number of operations they are involved in but do not themselves record the ethnicity or gender of subjects. This is under the control of the sponsoring OCU.

13. CO19’s records are based on the IC1-6 ‘officer defined’ system and not the 16+1 system as recommended in March 2005 Commission for Racial Equality report, ‘The Police Service in England and Wales’.

14. Encounters between CO19 officers and subjects tend to be extremely brief. Officers will detain and secure subjects but immediately pass them to their unarmed colleagues before either returning to the firearms element of the operation or withdrawing completely in order that conventional policing can continue, thereby minimising disruption to the public.

15. It is our understanding that the subjects we encounter will subsequently have their ethnicity recorded in line with the 16+1 system elsewhere within the MPS.

16. Table 2 shows the ethnicity of people in relation to stops by ARVs and suggests disproportionate engagement with subjects from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities.

Table 2 – Officer defined ethnicity and gender of persons detained by ARVs

  Male Female

White (IC1)

 241 (28.9%) 14 (1.6%)
BME (IC2-6)  569 (67.9%) 14 (1.6%)
Total 810 28

There were 569 (67%) males and 14 (1.6%) females from BME communities detained by ARVs. This makes a total of 810 males and 28 females.

17. CO19 does not routinely initiate independent firearms operations and the majority of CO19’s operational engagements with any section of the community take place as a direct result of calls from the public or authorisations from other law enforcement agencies. This means that where issues of proportionality exist, their cause is beyond our control.

18. The very rare exception to this is when CO19 officers come across something to which they have to react and for which there is no time for additional authorisation. The statistics held by CO19 do not currently allow this to be accurately quantified but anecdotally it is going to be very few and unlikely to have an impact on the figures in table 2.

19. The statistics in table 2 also suggest that gun enabled crime has a significant gender bias.

20. The demand led approach of CO19’s work also includes disruptive patrol activity. When not directly engaged in specific operations, ARVs will patrol areas that have the highest incidents of firearms calls and where intelligence indicates a greater likelihood of gun enabled crime. In some cases, there is a convergence with these areas being among the most diverse communities in London.

21. We should reinforce the fact that our presence on any borough is likely to be as a result of information from within those communities. CO19 is responding to those calls for assistance and seeking to provide protection accordingly. CO19 recognises that operating in diverse communities can lead to a perception of bias and, as discussed later, the Command is endeavouring to balance this impact by direct engagement with these communities through a variety of initiatives.

Use of force within firearms support

22. The level of force used by CO19 officers will vary according to the prevailing circumstances and the MPS conflict resolution model. The majority of stops result in no or minimal use of force. CO19 only records data in relation to use of force that involves the use of firearms and includes the two less-lethal options of the baton gun (a weapon that fires a low velocity projectile, the impact of which is intended to shock and stun the subject) and the Taser.

23. In the last financial year, there was only one shooting by CO19, the subject being a white male and the shots being fatal. This shooting remains subject to an investigatory and coroner’s process.

24. There were no discharges involving the baton gun.

25. Comprehensive data exists in respect of Taser. Taser delivers a high voltage, low energy electric charge to subjects who represent a significant threat but in circumstances where lethal force might not be justifiable. In the last financial year, Taser was deployed on 75 occasions. Deployment means the weapon is actually drawn and on some of these occasions this is sufficient to control and detain the subject1. Table 3 shows the number of deployments in relation to subject’s officer defined ethnicity and Special Population Groups (SPG)2.

Table 3 – Taser deployment in relation to officer-defined ethnicity

Officer Defined Ethnicity Deployments Discharges [1] SPG

White (IC1)

 31  26  5
BME (IC2-6) 42 29 6
Not Recorded 2 2 0
Total 75 57 11

26. Eighty-three percent of deployments against white subjects resulted in an actually discharge of the weapon as opposed to 69% against BME subjects. Forty-five percent of deployments against Special Population Groups [2] resulted in a discharge. Eighty percent of these discharges were against SPGs from white communities.

27. The types of incident in which Taser is deployed varies considerably. There are 44 occurrences where the subject had a firearm (which includes imitation firearms), 15 where it was believed they had a firearm, 11 where subjects had possession of bladed weapons, 1 involving a large metal pole and 4 where threats of violence resulted in taser being deployed.

Firearms training

28. Systems are in place to monitor pass-fail rates within the 683 individual courses that MPSTC provides for the MPS but these are not refined enough for detailed analysis across all diversity strands. Under development at the moment are improved processes to monitor failure rates, reasons for failures (along with an improvement model which will help candidate’s OCUs improve pass rates) each category of which will be aligned to gender and ethnicity. A diversity audit will be published on a quarterly basis in order that the OCU can take positive action to address any evidence of unfairness or inequality. In addition, monitoring will allow CO19 to have a better understanding of development needs within diversity strands.

29. Table 4 shows the number of candidates who attended an initial firearms course in the last financial year and their success rates according to gender. We are unable to provide figures in relation to ethnicity [3].

Table 4 – Success rates for initial firearms courses (fy 06-07) according to gender

  Total Trained Total Passed


19 12 (63%)
Male 338 263 (77%)

Firearms licensing

30. The statutory application forms for firearm and shot gun certificates require the applicant's nationality, but not ethnicity. When NFLMS is linked to PNC, with the attendant requirement for search capable factors to be completed, the ethnicity field will initially default to "unknown". ACPO has yet to advise whether the statutory forms will be reviewed or whether an alternative solution will be found in order for the relevant field to subsequently be populated.

31. For the fy 2007-2008, CO19 has commenced a policy for recording the ethnicity and gender of refused and revoked licenses and certificates. This will assist CO19 in ensuring that licensing processes are fair and transparent thereby continuing to build community trust and confidence.

Firearms policy

32. The FPU monitor service delivery in terms of equality and diversity across the other business groups. Most recently, the FPU have been responsible for developing an Equality Impact Assessment in respect of Operation Kratos, the positive results of which are discussed in detail later.

The People of CO19

33. CO19 has undergone a period of growth over the last 12-18 months. The actual strength of CO19 is currently 555 police officers and 91 police staff. Table 5 shows the breakdown by ethnicity of CO19’s staff while Table 6 shows this breakdown by gender.

Table 5 – Breakdown of CO19 staff by ethnicity

  Number of BME staff Percentage of total

Police Officers

7 1.25%

Police Staff

13 14.7%


20 Average 3.1%

Table 6 – Breakdown of CO19 staff by gender

  Number of female staff Percentage of total

Police Officers

16 2.9%

Police Staff

42 47%


58 Average 9.0%

34. All of the seven BME police officers are male. Nine of the BME police staff are female.

35. It is recognised that female and BME staff are under-represented within the workforce and initiatives are underway to address this (see paragraph 36). It is worthy of note that staff from these groups are represented at all levels of the OCU.

36. The ages of CO19 staff cover a broad range and in relation to police officers are most likely to be indicative of the levels of experience required to be a firearms officer. Table 7 shows the number of officers and staff per age group.

Table 7 – Numbers of officers and staff by age groupings

Age groups Police Officers Police Staff


1 4


48 9


113 4


125 12


133 15


100 15


31 12


4 12


0 8


555 91

37. In respect of disability, there is a total of 11 staff on restricted duties. To qualify for restricted duties, individuals would have to be defined as disabled under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

38. CO19 does not have access to records regarding faith or no faith or sexual orientation as this self-declared information is ‘protected’ within the METHR computer system.

Reflecting the communities we serve


39. CO19’s balance of staff broadly reflects that of other specialised departments. However, much work has been and is being undertaken to ensure that we engage properly with all diversity strands with a view to becoming more representative of the communities we serve.

40. In trying to achieve this, we have had to confront the challenges and blockages that deter or prevent people from joining CO19. There is strong anecdotal evidence to show that some people are prevented from joining the department by factors mostly beyond our control. As an example, a female officer who had been through our women’s development programme (discussed later) was prevented from applying to CO19 by her OCU because of local tenure issues. Additional difficulties have been experienced in encouraging BOCUs to release staff or support their applications: this has been for a variety of reasons and there is currently a policy proposal being developed whereby BOCUs will not be able to block moves by staff from under-represented groups.

41. CO19’s main recruitment focus has been among women and officers from BME groups, and work has been undertaken to encourage greater participation in the selection process.

42. The OCU has been proactive in engaging with potential female recruits and created a ‘Women’s Development Programme’ which ran over a 4 month period and included:

  • an opportunity to attend a two day insight day
  • a 2 day workshop exploring personal development needs and assignment of mentors
  • a monthly meeting with mentors (ongoing)
  • opportunities to practice shooting on ranges
  • familiarisation visits to MPSTC Milton
  • fitness coaching from the CO19 physical training instructor.

43. The women’s development programme has been a pilot process, which has not yet been fully evaluated. Initial results show, however, that it has had a significant impact on both the numbers of women applying and the number of successful candidates.

44. The most recent recruitment process, the first for over two years, has just concluded. There were 46 requests for application forms from female officers, 26 (56%) of which completed and returned; 12 of these returns were from women who had been part of the development programme. Of these 26 applicants, 13 (50%) passed the final selection centre and will be offered places on firearms courses. This is a significant contrast to the last round of recruiting undertaken by the OCU when 10 women requested application packs and only 1 was returned. That officer was successful in her application and has recently joined CO19 after completing her training.

45. By way of comparison, 338 male officers requested application packs, 188 being returned (also 56%). Thirty-one males have passed the selection process (16.4%). This suggests that the support and encouragement given to female officers has been successful.

46. An issue for some applicants, which has decreased the numbers getting through to the final assessment centre, has been their inability to pass the fitness standards and the OCU will need to review whether further support can be given in preparing officers for this. A total of 8 officers who had been identified as suitable candidates for the final phase of the selection process failed at the physical assessment stage, 4 men and 4 women.

47. There is currently a review of work related fitness tests across all armed OCUs, however, the standards we currently operate to, have been verified by Loughborough University, world leaders in sports training, as being suitable for our current role and achievable by most people regardless of gender.

48. A similar recruitment mentoring process was initiated for BME officers. A 2-day insight event, which was held in December 2006, was seen as an opportunity for CO19 to learn more about its approach to BME issues. Accordingly, a number of lay assessors were invited to join staff from the Diversity and Citizen Focus Directorate (DCFD) and observe the event. These were external assessors from BME communities, identified and invited by DCFD. Each group of assessors has provided CO19 with valuable feedback through the OCU’s Diversity Working Group (see para. 50). Generally, the tenor has been very positive. One potentially significant issue raised related to the off-duty social centre at Milton being a bar and how this could isolate officers whose religious or personal beliefs forbade the consumption of alcohol.

49. Thirty-one BME officers attended the insight days. Twenty-two BME officers submitted applications and of these 8 had attended the insight days. Four BME officers (18%) progressed to the final assessment centre and 3 candidates (14%) have been successful and will be offered a firearms course. The success rate is much lower than that for women and slightly less than non-BME officers. More research is being undertaken with the Black Police Association (BPA) and the OCU diversity strand leader to fully understand why this should be the case.

50. A progress meeting is scheduled for June 2007 with preliminary finding being requested by the end of August 2007. These results will be the initiator for a recruitment Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) which will be completed before the next recruitment process, the dates of which are yet to be determined and are driven in part by the pass rates of officers on initial firearms courses. The next recruitment process is likely to be very late 2007.

51. Part of the OCU’s general recruitment strategy across the diversity strands is to try and instil confidence in potential candidates that our standards are realistic and achievable. We believe that insight days have made a significant contribution and it appears that, having been a success, the women’s development programme should now be extended to other diversity strands.

52. The OCU recognises that in conjunction with its external recruitment activity, addressing internal diversity issues will continue to make CO19 a desirable place to work. In the long term, the OCU is confident that organisational values will develop and our staff make-up will better reflect the communities we serve. CO19 has high retention rates with a turnover of less than 10%.

Diversity initiatives

53. In 2005, the OCU established a Diversity Working Group to address issues across all diversity strands. This was led by internal champions and supported by the Diversity and Citizen Focus Directorate (DCFD) with whom CO19 maintains close ties, to the extent of attaching staff to the directorate.

54. Each strand is ‘managed’ by a group of interested individuals, volunteered from across the whole workforce, who set agreed objectives to reflect the overall strategic aims of the organisation. This has led to some notable initiatives that have already shown positive results. The principal focus, already discussed in detail in this report, for some of the strands has related to recruitment of officers.

55. The Diversity Working Group is currently being refreshed to ensure compliance with Equality Standards as well as to refill positions made vacant by a number of individuals who have recently moved to new roles within the MPS. The following paragraphs give an overview of some of the group’s activities and achievements.

56. The Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) strand - A significant amount of work has been carried out to engage with LGBT officers, and, as a result of this, a number of officers have declared their sexual orientation. Some of the activities undertaken have included:

  • identifying LGBT liaison officers within CO19
  • provision of a LGBT confidential phone line
  • CO19 display at the LGBT History Month Fair
  • MPS wide survey into LGBT perceptions of CO19.

57. The latter is worthy of particular note. The survey was conducted through the MPS intranet. Not only did the responses provide CO19 with very useful feedback, but also the number of responses, 132, was the highest ever submitted for a survey of its kind. A detailed analysis of the feedback is being undertaken.

58. The Faith strand - The OCU is not able to provide a staff breakdown in this respect. However, some work has been undertaken in this area and there is recognition of the needs of different groups within the OCU. Some of the issues that have been addressed include:

  • provision of a quiet/prayer room at Milton
  • consultation with catering staff to ensure the provision of appropriate meal options in canteens
  • provision of protective headgear for a Sikh officer.

59. Most recently CO19 has established a dialogue with the East London Mosque who have agreed to provide us with training and better understanding of Islamic issues.

60. The Age strand – CO19 employs people with a range of ages as shown in the ‘Our People’ section of this report. It is likely that the average age of operational officers is higher than might be found elsewhere because of the experience levels generally required to meet the criteria for becoming a firearms officer. All operational officers have to meet a commonly applied fitness standard regardless of age. The main activities have included:

  • age discrimination issues and legislation being widely promoted within the OCU
  • a review of internal selection procedures and removal of any direct or indirect reference to age and length of service.

61. The Disability strand – Ten police officers and 1 member of staff are on restricted duties. As part of the command’s commitment to disability issues, CO19 works hard to provide restricted duties staff with meaningful roles that value their experience and contribute to the needs of the organisation. It is therefore no coincidence that the majority of staff on restricted duties work in the training environment where their knowledge and experience can be shared with others.

62. A major piece of practical work undertaken within this strand has been a disability audit at Milton. Additionally officers connected with leading this diversity strand have attended workshops run by the Employers Forum.

Equality and diversity training

63. A significant focus for training within CO19, both historically and presently, has been to maintain the exceptionally high standards expected of firearms officers. Depending on role, officers within CO19 are required to undertake between 25 and 13 days firearms/tactical training each year. This is the absolute minimum, and in reality, the number of days can be very much higher. Combined with a heavy operational demand, training has tended to be prioritised towards operational learning.

64. A new training unit, The Training Development Unit (TDU), was created in late 2006 to develop and deliver mandatory training. The initial work of this small team has been to ensure that all officers have undertaken Performance Development and Review (PDR) training. This decision was based on the need to ensure that everyone within the command had the opportunity to understand the requirements of the Integrated Competency Framework (ICF), which includes a mandatory heading of ‘Respect for Race and Diversity’. In turn, it is intended that this will impact on staff understanding our organisational values.

65. In support of this, a number of workshops have also been held for supervisors on the subject of objective setting as aligned to MPS values.

66. In addition to this command-wide training, key influencers and diversity champions have undertaken the following training:

  • DCFD have provided individual strand leaders with strand specific awareness training
  • male and female officers attended the ‘Dancing on The Ceiling’ seminars
  • East London Mosque are providing awareness training around Islamic issues
  • officers working on the disability strand have attended ‘Employers Forum’ workshops
  • all operational staff receives training in dealing with Special Population Group.

Working with the Diversity and Citizen Focus Directorate (DCFD)

67. CO19 has an excellent working relationship with DCFD. DCFD has provided continuous support to all of CO19’s diversity working group activity as well as helping to assess recruitment procedures. DCFD has facilitated training for diversity strand leaders and where CO19 has experienced difficulties with BOCUs (specifically in relation to recruitment and release of candidates) these have been escalated through them.

68. In addition, two CO19 officers have spent time attached to DCFD learning about diversity issues and bringing that experience back into the workplace.

Impact Assessments

69. Equality Impact Assessments are new to the OCU however; the capability to support their formulation is being quickly developed in recognition of their importance and the strategic benefits they bring to the organisation. Key members of C019 are shortly to receive EIA training.

70. It has been recognised that some arms of our business needed to be assessed as a matter of urgency and to this end an equality impact assessment for Operation Kratos has been completed. This action was tied in with the work of the MPS Kratos Review Group and the formation of the Kratos Community Reference Group (KCRG).

71. To achieve this, the Operation Kratos Community Reference Group:

  • developed a broader, inclusive approach to community engagement through providing consultation with and advice from Independent Advisory Groups (IAG) and community representatives
  • identified areas of sensitivity and feedback to MPS on the impact of Operation Kratos policing activities
  • developed communities understanding of policy and strategy by providing the community representatives with an opportunity to discuss areas referred to them
  • challenged policy and strategy in the context of policing and the impact on communities
  • met more regularly as directed by the Chair in response to an incident/event or as necessary
  • advised with regards community briefings and messages.

72. Membership of the Community group included Independent Advisory Group representation from Race, Disability, Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender, Youth Advisory Groups, Faith representation from Muslim Safety Forum, Hindu Forum, Sikh Forum, Christian Forum, (Jewish) Community Security Trust, community representatives from women’s groups, race groups i.e. Somalian, Kurdish and refugee and asylum seekers groups.

73. Much of the work required of this group has now been completed. CO19’s engagement with these representatives was a positive event and the OCU recognises the enormous value of the relationships we have established. Accordingly, CO19 is hoping to draw on this experience by using this group to create its own reference group in relation to armed policing issues. A meeting is scheduled for 30 May with the DCFD to define the constitution and responsibilities of this group and we are hoping to have it established by the end of August 2007.

74. Community Impact Assessments are largely driven by the BOCUs or commands to which CO19 is delivering a service. In spontaneous operations, CO19 tactical advisors will discuss the implications of undertaking firearms operations in any given area as part of their own operational risk assessment, however, only local officers are able to properly assess the likely response to firearms officers operating in any given location.

75. In authorised operations, there is an expectation on CO19’s part that the ‘sponsoring’ BOCU or OCU will share information with the Borough Liaison Officer (BLO) in order that a CIA can be carried out. In the event of an issue being identified, it will then be down to the authorising officer to decide whether or not the operation should go ahead and or to seek advice regarding alternative tactical options. While CO19 often has a raft of tactical options, the primary consideration must always be the safety of the public, the police and the armed subject.

76. Post incident CIAs will again be carried out by the BOCU on which the incident took place. CO19 will support the post incident process by being part of the Gold group established to manage the incident. It is CO19’s expectation that this process will take place within hours of an incident. This is one of the reasons why there are always a minimum of 2 SMT members on call i.e. one is there to manage internal issues while the other can work externally.

77. Currently, recording of a CIA by CO19 is inconsistent and reliant on tactical advisors recording the fact in their own notes. A new tactical advice sheet which will capture whether or not a CIA has been undertaken is being developed and currently being reviewed for national use.

Engaging with the community

78. The nature of operational service delivery is such that CO19 is demand led, the demand being created from OCUs and BOCUs. CO19 does not initiate independent firearms operations and therefore direct engagement with communities, beyond the command’s operational role, has historically been limited. The department has previously shunned publicity and avoided direct contact with the community. This has changed significantly.

79. In the past 12 months, CO19 has established an additional strategic priority of ‘promoting and raising public awareness of, and support for, the work of armed police officers in London’ that has led to a number of initiatives involving comprehensive contact with the communities we serve. The contact has involved making the department accessible to both local and national media as well as meeting our communities face to face.

80. Various media have been given access to the organisation and through this provided transparency around our roles, training and capabilities, although elements of the latter are protected from public scrutiny so as not to compromise tactics. Through this activity, opportunities have been presented for CO19 officers to openly discuss the difficulties and dangers they face as well the opportunity to present comment on issues such as imitation firearms. Probably the highest profile event was a weeklong series produced by Sky News that was filmed over a period of 2 months. Features also appeared in local and national newspapers, most notably an extensive feature in the Sunday Telegraph magazine.

81. In addition, contact with communities has been initiated through BOCUs, SNTs etc. An initiative has been implemented whereby each ARV relief is directly responsible for supporting a number of BOCUs. They are responsible for servicing requests for firearms awareness training for officers, staff and PCSOs as well as attending station open days, schools and colleges and other community groups. In the last fy CO19 officers delivered 55 such presentations. Some notable activity included:

  • presentation to mothers/guardians of potential gun-crime offenders at Brent
  • delivery of social education lessons at Westminster City School
  • support to prison service schools campaign
  • presentation to students at Croydon College.

82. In further recognition of the need to provide wider education around the police use of firearms, CO19 has initiated a program of engaging with key stakeholders. In late 2006, the ‘Could You’ programme was introduced whereby individuals are invited to experience at first hand the challenges and decision-making processes faced by firearms officers. This is done using a ‘Firearms Judgment Simulator’ also known as a ‘Laser Range’. Some notable activity has included:

  • presentation to chairs of MPS Police Consultative and Community Groups (PCCGs)
  • presentations to Bexley, Havering PCCGs (others booked throughout 2007)
  • presentations to minority and national media
  • presentations to MPS Central IAG, MPA and GLA.

Challenges and successes

83. There have been a number of successes in the last year, some of which have been touched upon in earlier sections of this report however, to summarise the key events:

  • increased understanding amongst external audiences
  • very successful LGBT survey, leading to positive interaction with LGBT communities
  • re-engineering of CO19 intranet site to support diversity initiatives
  • women’s development programme resulting in improved recruitment.

84. CO19’s challenges for the future are many and varied. As well as reviewing those areas already highlighted within this report, the OCU intends to address the following:

  • provision of greater support for officers entering the application process to ensure a clear understanding of what is needed in terms of preparation and evidence
  • a changing demography of experience across the MPS making it harder to recruit individuals who will match the skill set sought by CO19
  • increasing and competing demands on the Training Development Unit’s delivery capacity
  • a highly competitive recruit market.

Post incident after-care of officers

85. Officers from CO19 are routinely involved in critical incidents, all of which are subjected to immediate post-incident de-briefs. Some of these will go on to involve full Post Incident Procedures (PIP) being implemented, however, it should be noted that there is a sliding scale of severity and response depending on the incident. This section will focus on the likely actions and aftercare associated with the fatal shooting of a subject by a CO19 officer.

86. The PIP is designed to ensure that officers involved in critical incidents are dealt with appropriately and fairly while ensuring that any investigation is robust and transparent.

87. Any officer within the command can ask for the PIP to be implemented. Most usually, it will be either the ARV duty officer or in the case of a SFO or TST operation, the team leader or senior tactical adviser involved. The coordination of PIP commences with the CO19 base room which is staffed 24/7 and it is from here that the on-call Senior Management Team (SMT) member and the on-call Police Federation representative will be called. The CO19 SMT maintain a minimum of two officers on-call 24 hours a day, everyday of the year. They will respond to any PIP and take the lead as the PIP manager at the earliest opportunity. Notification will also be made to the Directorate of Professional Standards in order that appropriate control and investigation measures can be implemented as soon as possible.

88. Thereafter, the PIP follows two streams albeit they are intrinsically linked and highly collaborative. Firstly, there is the procedural stream established and controlled by MPS policies and procedures and guided by the ACPO Manual of Guidance on the Police Use of Firearms. Secondly, there is the comprehensive support from the Police Federation.

MPS Post Incident Procedure Standard Operating Procedures (PIP SOP)

89. The PIP SOP captures such issues as:

  • the making of notes by officers and the gathering of evidence
  • interviews
  • medical examinations
  • command
  • de-briefing
  • stress management
  • seizure of clothing and weapons
  • taking of evidential samples
  • preservation of crime scenes
  • referral to IPCC
  • media
  • community impact assessments
  • welfare
  • return to work programme &Incident reviews.

90. The extent to which welfare support is made available is driven by the needs of the individual. The MPS recognises the adverse impact that critical incidents can have on the families of officers and will now appoint a caseworker from the Occupational Health department to work with officers and their families. If necessary, measures also exist to deliver this support while protecting officers’ security and anonymity.

91. It is in everybody’s interest to support officers through these challenges and to help them back to work as soon as possible. CO19 officers are amongst the most experienced and highly trained officers in the MPS and although officers will be withdrawn from operations until at least the initial findings of any investigation are known, they are allowed to engage in meaningful work should they be in a position to do so.

Police Federation (PF) support

92. CO19 has a permanent PF representative who is highly experienced in the support of officers involved in police shootings. Working together with the OCU SMT, the Federation support has been best described as ‘what you would want to be able to give your best friend in a time of crisis’.

93. The PF is there to support the PIP and ensure that officers are dealt with properly and fairly. At the earliest stages, the PF will provide an experienced lawyer to support principal officers and will fund any legal support that might be required. Should a shooting be subject to an investigation, the PF are able to call upon expert witnesses.

94. The CO19 PF team are recognised as leaders in the field of providing support to firearms officers involved in PIP and this has been recognised by the award of a Commissioner’s commendation.

Major Incidents - The impact on the CO19 team

95. CO19 staff at all levels of the organisation are recruited from among the best available. Police officers in particular go through a rigorous selection process that ensures only the most capable and competent officers are authorised to carry firearms and then to engage in some of the most dangerous policing operations, not only in London, but when necessary, elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

96. However, despite the extraordinary burdens placed upon officers, they remain ordinary people, with families and lives beyond the boundaries of the Metropolitan Police Service. Within this context, the impact of major incidents on them and their families can be distressing, disruptive, invasive and long lasting.

97. From the first stage of a major incident, which is most likely to be the point at which an officer shoots somebody, they are subjected to extremes of physical and psychological stress. Officers are likely to be the first people to administer first aid to casualties, an inescapable and potentially distressing irony however their role is to protect life and remains their utmost priority regardless of the situation they find themselves in. Officers may have to deal with hostility and shock among members of the public while remaining calm and professional, protecting life and securing evidence.

98. After the incident, officers’ actions will be subjected to intensive scrutiny, possibly for many years. Everything from their specific actions to past training and service record may be examined. They will be interviewed, possibly under caution, by external bodies such as a non-MPS police force investigating the matter in conjunction with the IPCC.

99. As well as the potential for legal processes such as judicial reviews and even criminal proceedings officers involved in fatal police shootings, are also likely to be called before coroner’s enquiries. These proceedings may take several years during which an officer’s professional and personal life can literally be put on hold.

100. There is potential for police officers involved in shootings to have their own lives threatened by associates of the subject they have shot, and for officers and their families to suffer adverse psychological affects.

101. Local and corporate handling of how these officers are dealt with can impact upon morale across the whole department. Inappropriate treatment or ‘rough justice’ would have the potential to sow the seeds of doubt into the minds of officers who have to make split second decisions. On a more practical basis, the abstraction of officers due to investigations creates additional burdens on those left to continue service delivery. Officers on CO19 already work extensive hours and abstractions of any nature can increase this workload.

102. However, ultimately all officers in CO19 are volunteers, highly professional and highly committed. Despite the intense pressures, most officers deal with the challenges that confront them and move forward positively with the overwhelming desire to return to work as soon as they can.

103. Regardless of the personal and professional challenges they face, officers from CO19 remain willing and ready to put themselves between the most dangerous elements of society and the unarmed police and people of London.


Association of Chief Police Officers
Armed Response Vehicles
Borough Liaison Officer
 Black Ethnic Minority
Borough Operational Command Unit
Black Police Association
Competency Framework
Community Impact Assessment
Specialist Firearms Command
Diversity and Citizen Focus Directorate
Equality Impact Assessment
Firearms Enquiry Team
Firearms Policy Unit
financial year
Independent Advisory Group
Independent Police Complaints Commission
Kratos Community Reference Group
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
Metropolitan Police Service
Metropolitan Police Service Tactical Command
National Firearms Licensing Management Team
National Policing Improvement Agency
Operational Command Unit
Police Consultative and Community Groups
Police Community Support Officer
Performance Development and Review
Police Federation
Professional Investigation Process
Police National Computer
Specialist Firearms Officers
Senior Management Team
Standard Operating Procedures
Training Development Unit
Tactical Support Teams

C. Race and equality impact

1. The police use of firearms within communities has the potential to be highly disruptive and damaging to community relationships. In recognition of this, CO19 is committed to undertaking activities that make its staff more understanding of community issues and reflective of those the Command serves while ensuring that policies and procedures are non-discriminatory, fair and transparent.

2. In the last 12 months, the command has implemented a number of processes and programs that have had a positive impact on recruitment and community engagement and are continuing to be developed.

3. Where CO19 has identified recording deficiencies, measures have been put into place to address these in order that the Command’s understanding of diversity and equality issues continues to grow and we are able to respond accordingly.

D. Financial implications

The overall OCU budget for FY 2006/2007 was £39,503,467.23

E. Background papers

  • ‘The Police Service in England and Wales’ – Commission for Racial Equality, March 2005
  • ‘Thematic review of race and diversity in the Metropolitan Police Service’ – Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, March 2004
  • 'The Case For Change’ – The Report of the Morris Enquiry, December 2004

F. Contact details

Report author: Chief Superintendent William Tillbrook, MPS

For more information contact:

MPA general: 020 7202 0202
Media enquiries: 020 7202 0217/18


1. Discharge means that the weapon is actually fired and either the electrical charge is passed through the probes and wires, which are ejected, from the weapon or the weapon is put directly against the subject’s body.
2. Special Population Groups are individuals who may react to normal requests and commands in an unexpected or irrational way and include those affected by mental health issues, disabilities including hearing, sight and speech or other impairment including drink or drugs
3. A number of courses are run more than once bringing the total number of courses for last fy to 398 [Back]

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