Scotland Yard will also issue new, longer, lightweight batons instead of the traditional short wooden truncheon as part of a series of measures to increase the safety of police officers.
Mr Condon hopes the moves will 'postpone the necessity to routinely arm police officers.' Protection has been reviewed after the murder of two officers and recent shootings and stabbings.
He said the measures were in response to the murders of PC Patrick Dunne and Sergeant Derek Robertson and the shooting and wounding earlier this year of PC Simon Carroll and PC Jim Seymour in Brixton, south London. Since then every officer in Brixton has been issued with a bullet-proof vest.
'I think we all value the traditional image of the British bobby but we have to police the real world and the equipment and training must have some link with the real world,' the Commissioner said.
'Having had two officers murdered, two shot and several stabbed, I am not prepared to ask them to carry out their job without better protection.'
Mr Condon said routine arming of officers had not dramatically improved safety anywhere in the world. 'If everyone had to wear a gun there would be no high standards. We have restricted the training and issue of firearms to highly-trained and capable police officers.'
The officers allowed to carry pistols are firearms officers who man the armed response vehicles (ARVs) or Trojan units on 24-hour mobile patrol around London.
Previously, officers needed authority from a high-ranking officer before remoing guns from a secure metal box in the vehicle. Mr Condon recently increased the number of ARVs from five to twelve.
'The Home Secretary has agreed it makes no sense for firearms to arrive more quickly at the scene of an incident and then to leave in place a complex and bureaucratic process for authority to use them,' he said.
The Commissioner also approved the use of 22in acrylic nylon batons and said further tests would be carried out on 24in and 26in models.
The batons are longer and tougher than the 16in wooden truncheons. They are also worn outside the uniform as opposed to the present ones worn discreetly within a special trouser pocket.
Scotland Yard is already testing bullet and stab-resistant vests in 10 police stations around the capital and Mr Condon has asked the Home Office for permission to street test 'incapacitant' sprays once they have been evaluated and scientifically assessed. The sprays, such as pepper and Mace, disorientate but are said not to cause permanent damage.
Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, who is responsible for police in London, approved the gun and baton measures.
'I have always made it clear that police officers should be given proper protection to carry out their difficult job. The effect of this decision is to extend the range of equipment available to them and to increase the flexibility they need to protect themselves and the public,' he said.
Crime on the railways, page 2
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