Met Police 'may struggle' to recruit firearms officers quickly
The Metropolitan Police Service could struggle to recruit 600 extra firearms officers within two years, the Met Police Federation has warned.
It represents rank and file officers and said many are reluctant to become firearms specialists, subjected to long investigations after a fatal shooting.
The Met has 100 new officers to date.
About 1,000 applicants have applied to be trained in the use of firearms and a force spokesman said it was "more than satisfied not only with the quantity of the applications, but also with the quality."
However, the national lead for armed policing, deputy chief constable Simon Chesterman, said he only expected to get about half of the suitable applicants through the rigorous training process, which hampered speedy recruitment.
He added: "I think the greatest threat to delivering the uplift [extra officers] is officers' fears about what they will face in the event they have to discharge a firearm and they are really concerned about what will happen to them post incident."
Retired Met Police officer Anthony Long was cleared in 2015 of the unlawful killing of suspected armed robber Azelle Rodney whom he shot dead in 2005.
Mr Long said: "I am the worst case scenario.
"Non-firearms officers, who might be considering a position as a firearms officer, are rightly saying to themselves, why would I put myself and my family through that, what is the gain, because you don't get paid any more for being a firearms officer?"
Home Office figures show the total number of armed officers has fallen in the Met Police by about 717 people since March 2010 when there were 2,856 firearms officers compared to 2,139 in March 2016.
The reduction was largely due to cuts in police budgets, the Met Police Federation said.
Federation chairman Ken Marsh said: "We really are struggling to recruit.
"I think at the moment the commissioner said [he wanted] 600, we are not even halfway there yet.
"I think the next batch is going to be far harder because there is only a certain pool that you are taking these officers from."
The increase in firearms officers for the capital was part of a national plan to increase the UK's armed response teams, mainly funded by the government. The officers were due to be deployed within two years of the announcement in April.
Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) deputy chair Sarah Green said "We recognise the challenging and dangerous circumstances in which firearms officers operate but it is right that when there is a fatality there is an independent investigation. Our independent scrutiny should not cause any officer to be concerned about taking on a firearms role."
In the past six years the IPCC has completed 23 investigations into the use of police firearms, of which seven cases involved fatalities.
It said in 21 of those cases, including six fatal shootings, no firearms officer involved "was at any time treated as a suspect by the IPCC".
"We are working hard to reduce the amount of time our work takes but many firearms investigations involving a fatality are complex and the public rightly have an expectation of thorough scrutiny," Ms Green added.