Andy Hughes, Sky News, October 3, 2023
Public safety could be put at risk as “thousands” of armed police around the country are preparing to hand in their guns if the officer accused of murdering Chris Kaba is named by a judge.
This is according to police officers from three forces who have spoken to Sky News ahead of the Old Bailey hearing on Wednesday.
Until now, the identity of the officer – known only as NX121- has been protected by an anonymity order which was imposed at his first court appearance last week.
But a senior judge could lift the order at the court hearing on Wednesday morning.
Last week, Sky News revealed how firearms officers from the Met are preparing a mass downing of guns if the officer is identified.
Since then, we have spoken to armed officers from three other forces who say they are planning the same. The police officers spoke to Sky News on condition of anonymity.
One officer from West Midlands Police said: “Every person I’ve spoken to in my team say they’ll hand in their tickets to carry weapons.
“The officers are very, very nervous. We, as firearms officers, don’t feel we’ve had the necessary support to do our job.
“This is an extremely dangerous job, so why should we risk our lives if we don’t have the legal protection to do our jobs?
“If the anonymity of officer NX121 is lifted, it will mean a huge crisis in policing nationwide. I’ve not spoken to one officer who isn’t considering their future.
“I’d leave this job, and I’ve spoken to others who would do the same.”
Last week, hundreds of Met officers handed in their weapons after officer NX121 was charged with the murder of Mr Kaba.
The Army was placed on standby to support the Met and armed police from other forces were drafted in to make up for the shortfall.
The West Midlands officer told Sky News: “We were asked if we would help out the Met, but we all refused. That was the same situation for many forces.
“Only one force fully complied.”
Chair of the Police Federation, Steve Hartshorn, a former firearms officer in the Met, said: “I know more than anybody the pressures our firearms officers face, and their concerns are valid.
“If I was still carrying a weapon now, I would probably hand in my ticket as well. Certainly, until we get more clarity.
“This is a huge concern for public safety. When the public call 999, they want the best officers protecting them.
“If they’ve handed their tickets to carry weapons in, then this obviously leaves the public more vulnerable.
“But I understand their concerns. They [firearms officers] will be thinking ‘if I pull my trigger then I could become the next NX121’.”
It is standard court procedure for anyone accused of a crime to be named publicly in open court, but the legal team for the defence has made an application for officer NX121 to remain anonymous.
The Kaba family said the anonymity of officer NX121 should be lifted.
In a statement, the family’s lawyer said: “On what we have been told until now, we can see no basis on which the officer in question should not be named, as part of the fair and accurate reporting of this case, which is in the interests of open justice.”