The Metropolitan Police are considering placing armed foot patrols in some areas of London in response to rising violence according to the force’s head.
On Thursday, Met commissioner Cressida Dick told a London Assembly Police and Crime Committee hearing that the patrols would only be deployed in non-targeted areas in ‘extreme circumstances’.
This would be a significant policy change as most police officers are currently unarmed with armed police officers patrolling in vehicles or stationed at potential terrorist targets such as train stations.
She said: “If something truly ghastly has just happened or is about to happen, those officers who at the moment would stand next to their vehicles might take a very short foot patrol.
“It is a small change potentially in tactic in extreme circumstances.”
According to the Metropolitan Police’s figures, there have been 127 killings so far in 2018, an increase from the 116 seen in 2017.
However, the force has since denied that these patrols would be a routine part of policing in the capital.
Assistant commissioner, Sir Stephen House, said: “As part of our response to the increase in violent crime in London we are examining how our armed officers can provide extra support and augment other units, either in response to a serious assault, or to be deployed to areas where we have intelligence that serious violence is imminent.”
Sir Stephen added that armed patrols were one part of a set of tactics the Met was considering at this time to ‘get ahead of the violence’ and that the force was in early stages of a very limited consultation.
The proposal has still drawn staunch criticism.
A spokesperson for Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The Mayor is crystal clear armed officers on London’s streets must be the exception and cannot become the norm.”
On Thursday, Labour peer Lord Harris told the House of Lords that putting armed patrols in the capital would be considered ‘provocative’.
He said: “It will inspire fear rather than reassurance, it will hinder community confidence and do little in itself to reduce the number of violent incidents.”