Protect armed officers, says police chief

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The Independent Online

The Metropolitan Police commissioner called for more legal protection for his officers yesterday after an agreement was reached to avert a potentially dangerous strike.

The Metropolitan Police commissioner called for more legal protection for his officers yesterday after an agreement was reached to avert a potentially dangerous strike.

More than 125 officers from Scotland Yard's 400-strong SO19 firearms unit had downed weapons in support of two colleagues who were suspended after a fatal shooting.

Yesterday, the commissioner Sir John Stevens said they had agreed to return to duties after the situation had been resolved.

In a series of meetings, he explained, they had aired their uncertainty as to where the law stood and what support they would receive. "We are committed to working together to seek changes that will give them confidence to undertake their dangerous work," Sir John said.

He said a detailed report would be sent to the Home Secretary, David Blunkett.

"The bottom line is police officers who have firearms obviously must be subject to the law like everybody else but it does mean that, if they are acting lawfully protecting themselves and members of the public and acting in good faith with reasonable knowledge, then, surely, in those circumstances they require a certain level of protection."

The dispute erupted after the suspension of Inspector Neil Sharman and PC Kevin Fagan. The pair could face criminal charges after a second inquest into the death of Harry Stanley, 46, returned a verdict of unlawful killing last week. Mr Stanley was killed in Hackney, east London, five years ago when the officers mistook the table leg he was carrying for a shotgun.

Last night, the Police Federation said it would be in negotiations with the Home Office in the review of the murder law. The federation believes officers - who fire in good faith when they perceive a threat to safety - should not face charges after an unlawful killing inquest verdict.

Some officers in the SO14 and SO16 units, which protect the Royal Family, Westminster and Downing Street, were understood to have considered joining the action.