‘This militarisation of the police will increase the risk that we run already, not just to our civil liberties but to our very safety,’ Labour MP John McDonnell told news Line yesterday.
He was responding to yesterday’s suggestion by Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Ian Blair that police forces could employ armed forces personnel on short-term contracts as firearms officers.
Referring to the police killing of innocent, unarmed young Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, added: ‘We’ve already experienced the nightmare of the shoot-to-kill policy.
‘This militarisation would put more lives at risk.’
Warning the police chief should stay out of politics, McDonnell concluded: ‘This is not an issue for the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
‘This is policy and politics and not an issue for Commissioner Blair.’
In his speech to the Police Superintendents’ Association conference in Warwickshire, Commissioner Blair suggested ‘a service which is bold enough to explore whether certain functions can be carried out by people on short-term contracts, partially warranted only to do a certain type of the police job, whether that be surveillance officers, underwater search, financial investigators, mounted branch or, even, firearms officers.
‘Could we bring staff directly in from the armed services, give them a certain amount of basic training and then clear instructions as to their firearms duties, so that they would be partially warranted, on a fixed-term contract, to undertake only those duties?
‘The question then becomes how bold we wish to be and how far we can go before we lose the flexibility of officer deployment . . .’
Terry Stewart of the Justice for Harry Stanley Campaign, an unarmed family man who was shot dead by police firearms officers, said: ‘It’s moving towards turning the country into a war zone.
‘You only send the Army onto the streets when there is a break down in law and order.
‘This is part of the general crackdown, with ASBOs etc.
‘I’m opposed to any firearms on the streets.
‘And any short-term training is going to be a lack of training, which means more trouble for the public.’
Solicitor Daniel Machover, who represents the Stanley family, expressed serious concerns to News Line.
Machover said: ‘My reaction is if staff are not going to be trained sufficiently well in police firearms tactics, I would be very concerned that putting the right to life should remain at the top of the agenda.
‘The Army have a different training and operate in different circumstances than the police.
‘My concern would be that soldiers would have sufficient training that the right to life of a suspect should be one of the paramount concerns of a firearms officer.
‘Otherwise, that could lead to a terrible situation where innocent people were killed.’