By Alex Jones
SHOCKING photos show what life is really like for an armed police officer in London in a new book by a firearms veteran.
Gang culture, knife crime, riots and terrorism.
London has seen more than its fair share of atrocities in recent years. Sobering images show the brave men and women who put themselves on the frontline to try and keep or restore peace in the UK capital under the most difficult circumstances imaginable, including photos of the horrendous terror attacks of 2017, the London riots of 2011, and the gut-harrowing murder of Lee Rigby in 2013.
The unsettling photos are included in veteran firearms officer Stephen Smith’s new book London’s Armed Police: Up Close And Personal, a behind-the-scenes look at the Met’s Specialist Firearms Unit SCO19.
“This book is written from the perspective of the firearms officer. I make no apology for that,” explained Smith.
“There is enough ‘police bashing’ in the press from pressure groups and ill-informed people using social media. This is an attempt to balance the books. Please feel free to judge, but first read about the incidents, put yourself in the officers’ shoes and identify the qualities they require to do a difficult, sometimes impossible, job.
“Major General Orde Charles Wingate DSO, leader of the Chindits in the Second World War, said ‘The boldest measures are the safest’. This has been true of many of the firearms operations I have been on in my career and continues to be the case with the new generation of armed officers of the Specialist Firearms Command SCO19 today.
“Events in the firearms world are moving at an ever-increasing pace: terrorism, gang violence and gun and knife crime are the root causes, forcing us to call on more armed police to protect us. It is essential that these officers are well motivated, have the best available equipment and receive the most up-to-date training.
“This book shows how our armed police have had to evolve in order to keep pace with criminals and terrorists. We cannot stand still or we run the risk of losing the streets – this cannot and will not happen.
“I intend to bring the reader up to date with the most recent armed events in the capital. The book will look at the fascinating developments in armed policing across the board, some of which are controversial. Some have never been mentioned in a public forum.”
The captivating and expansive book covers the from the formation of the Met’s armed wing and pulls no punches.
It covers events from the controversial shooting of Azelle Rodney in 2005 and Mark Duggan in 2011 (which sparked riots across the country), right up to the outrageous terrorist attacks on Westminster, London Bridge and Borough Market in 2017.
Other topics that Smith explores include the sad tale of Fusilier Lee Rigby who was murdered by two Islamic terrorists, the shooting of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes after he was wrongfully deemed to be a would-be bomber, and the horrors of the 2005 London Tube attacks.
The book also offers an insight on the training and equipment used by the force and the devastating physical and emotional impact the work can have on its courageous officers.
“The role of today’s firearms officers has changed dramatically in the past decade as we’ve seen an increase in home-grown terrorist activity,” added author Smith.
“Officers still have a responsibility to maintain the peace, fulfil a support role to their unarmed colleagues across London and act as a deterrent to armed criminals and would-be terrorists, while being prepared at any moment for a major terrorist attack.
“In 1983, excluding the non-Home Office forces, such as the CNC and MOD Police, I was one of 13,200 officers in England and Wales authorised to carry firearms. In 2016 there were just 5,639.
“It is fair to say these 5,639 officers are trained to a far higher standard than their predecessors and, unlike former colleagues, they are, on the whole, armed permanently.
“While we, as a nation, have resisted the temptation of falling in line with the rest of Europe and arming all our police officers, is it inevitable that we will do eventually?
“Yes, I suppose it is, but not in the near future. Although having said that, we are always only one incident away from change.
“One thing I know for sure – we must support our officers both armed and unarmed. They need the public and the press behind them in this war on armed crime and terrorism as they cannot do the job without that public backing. We still have the best police service in the world and the lowest numbers of police-related shootings.”
Stephen Smith’s London’s Armed Police: Up Close And Personal, published by Pen and Sword Books, is due to be released this summer.