London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe made a point Tuesday to encourage citizens to show greater support and trust in London’s firearms officers.
Hogan-Howe will retire this month and said in his final speech as commissioner “there should be less suspicion and more trust” when armed London police are forced to use their weapons.
The commissioner spoke on the stigmatization that the firearms specialists have felt when they’ve had to “use lethal force to protect the public.”
“Increasingly, they seem to be portrayed as suspects,” Hogan-Howe said, “based, I can only assume, on an underlying belief that they must have acted in a criminal fashion if someone has died.”
Hogan-Howe continued: “We can’t afford to have officers think twice because they fear the consequences of shooting someone. That’s how they get shot, or the public gets hurt, or a criminal gets away with a gun.”
The commissioner noted that shootings are still rare in London and the greater UK. However, the 12 deaths in 2016 due to shootings in London are 12 too many, Hogan-Howe said, and a total of 697 firearms were recovered last year.
During the 3,300 deployments of firearms officers in 2016, the commissioner said the officers “did not fire a single shot at a suspect” and argued, “it’s an urban myth that officers are trigger-happy.”
Hogan-Howe’s speech comes after a recent survey found that nearly half of London Metropolitan Police officers think there should be more firearms specialists on the force.
According to the Guardian, the number of firearms officers was upped from 2,200 to 2,800 after the Paris attacks in November 2015, and Hogan-Howe says that 600 more firearms officers will soon be deployed.