Double shooting brings Met closer to carrying guns: Commissioner will put more armed officers on the streets of London

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The Independent Online
THE GROWING frequency of attacks on police officers had increased the 'possibility, indeed the probability' of routinely arming police in London, Paul Condon, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, warned yesterday.

His warning came after two officers were shot and wounded in south London. One was shot in the leg and the second in the back after they stopped two men acting suspiciously next to a motorcycle in Brixton. Both officers were said last night to be in stable condition in hospital.

Police said three people were being questioned after the double shooting, which was believed to be drugs-related and involved a 9mm pistol.

At a Scotland Yard press conference yesterday Mr Condon said: 'There is only so much I can ask my officers to take. I have always said the arming of the Metropolitan Police will be event-driven and this shooting takes us closer to being armed.'

There would be more armed officers on the streets as a result of this incident, he said.

He would not discount suggestions that officers who were trained in the use of firearms and were psychologically suitable and willing to carry a gun, would be allowed to carry one at night.

Since the Metropolitan Police first drew up firearms regulations in 1884, officers have never carried guns as a matter of course. Following a spate of armed burglaries in the 1880s, police on night duty were allowed to carry a pistol if they wished. This continued until 1936 but the policy was kept secret and officers were instructed to keep firearms concealed.

Mr Condon said the night issue of firearms 'may well be a stop on the road' to routine arming of patrolling officers. More than 2,000 officers were already trained in the use of firearms and 'hundreds' could be deployed at any time.

Scotland Yard had already decided to increase the number of armed response vehicles, or 'Trojans', which patrol the capital 24 hours a day with officers trained and equipped with semi-automatic weapons and handguns, he said.

The shootings coincided with the issuing by Scotland Yard of 600 sets of bullet- and knife-proof body armour to officers throughout London. Mr Condon, who described the armour as 'state of the art', said it would give officers 'the best protection anywhere in the world'.

Another possibility was the arming of police at specific 'high risk' locations such as notorious drug dealing estates.

Constable Jim Seymour, 31, one of the wounded officers, yesterday described how during a routine stop in a south London street he and Constable Simon Carroll, 23, approached two men about to get on a motorcycle.

'As I turned my back I remember a bang and straight away Simon screaming. As I turned round I was shot in the back,' he said from his hospital bed.

'I knew Simon was quite bad from the way he screamed. I tried to get to him, but the pain was too bad.

'I heard more shots and I didn't know what was going to happen next, so I hit the floor beside a vehicle for some protection - I really feared this man was going to finish us off. I started shaking and after a short while heard the motorcycle roar off up the road,' he said.

The bullet that hit PC Seymour entered his back and exited through his side, just missing vital internal organs.