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London's Armed Police (Hardback)

Up Close and Personal

True Crime London P&S History Photographic Books Colour Books

By Stephen Smith
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 309
Illustrations: 100
ISBN: 9781526749437
Published: 30th September 2019


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Come on a journey with veteran firearms officer, Stephen Smith as he goes behind the scenes of the Met’s Specialist Firearms Unit, SCO19.

This book covers events from the controversial shooting of Azelle Rodney in 2005 and Mark Duggan in 2011, right up to the outrageous terrorists attacks on Westminster, London Bridge and Borough Market.

Stephen Smith, through his unique access to SCO19, has managed to put together hundreds of detailed photographs along with text that goes a long way to explain why it is necessary to have such an elite firearms unit on standby 24/7 in London.

This comprehensive volume will bring you right up-to date with the training, operations, equipment and mind-set of these courageous individuals who put their lives on the line on a daily basis to keep the capital safe.

London’s Armed Police is a must have for anyone with an interest in modern policing or police firearms matters.

This is an important and valuable book that sets out what has been happening in the Metropolitan Police's Firearms Unit over a period of years. Written 50 years after the murder of three officers at Braybrook Street, Shepherds Bush, it is timely to reflect on how the Met's response to firearms crime has developed. We are all threatened by the fact that criminals have firearms - and use them, notwithstanding the strict firearms licensing laws that limits their availability to some extent. We do not relish the images of heavily armed police officers, the unease that they put into our minds, and their obvious distance from the community policing we appreciate so much. But this book describes how the system of armed patrols in London works, and the impressive steps to ensure good command and coordination for when police officers have to do something about mobile criminals who may be about to commit a robbery, a violent drugs deal or an act of terrorism. Split second decisions have to be made in tense situations when movements of suspects may be seen as sinister. The police officers involved need to be protected physically: their body armour moves them a long way from the 'officer on the beat'. They need to train for a great range of scenarios, much like their military counterparts, and they need to respond quickly to the surprisingly high number of incidents occurring on a daily basis on London's streets. All of this leads to quite a large squad of specialist officers who concentrate on using firearms against violent criminals, hopefully not to the exclusion of wider policing concerns. We need to understand how the teams operate, and this books helps enormously in this regard.

Physical protection from opposing gunfire is one thing: the law on reasonable force is another, and the wheels of inquests and enquiries grind exceedingly slow at times. We all wish that relatives did not need to face and mourn the deaths of those who are shot by police officers, but how can it be right for an officer to wait a decade before a court decides his fate? We would all like the processes of investigation, surveillance and arrest to take place peacefully, but occasionally they do not, despite all the best intentions, well-laid plans and occasional imperfections. The officials, lawyers and politicians, who pronounce at leisure, rarely experience the inevitable stress and fear of fast-moving violent incidents that can turn a police officer hero into an apparent villain according to their instant judgement and assessment. The police proverb 'better to be judged by twelve men than carried in a coffin by six' is no doubt true; but it is also vital that senior police officers exercise strong, wise and thoroughly engaged leadership and supervision of these firearms teams who have to carry out their duty in such extraordinary situations.

Alan Moss

About Stephen Smith

Stephen Smith, a veteran of over a thousand armed operations during his twenty-two years with the Metropolitan Police specialist firearms command, was born in south London in 1960. He joined the Met at nineteen and after twelve years in uniform passed selection for PT17, the Mets firearms unit, where he was selected to work on the specialist firearms teams, experiencing first-hand the explosive and controversial world of police firearms operations.


Between operational postings, Stephen has taught most aspects of armed policing. He left the Met in 2013 after 33 years service and now instructs firearms and tactics with a non-Home Office police force.


Author of Stop! Armed Police! (Hale Publishing, 2013) Stephen Smith recently featured on Channel 5, in the four-part documentary series Armed and Deadly and previously HBO's Secrets of New Scotland Yard. He has also advised on films and TV police dramas. He continues to have a great interest in police firearms history and supports the police firearms charity the PFOA.

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