The Info List - Specialist Firearms Command

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Specialist Firearms Command (SC&O19, SCO19 and previously known as SCO19 and CO19) is a part of the Specialist Crime & Operations Directorate (SC&O) within London's Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).[2][3][4] The Command is responsible for providing a firearms-response capability, assisting the rest of the service which is not routinely armed. They are full-time units whose members do not perform any other duties. On occasion, they have been referred to as the "blue berets", as they used to wear these. Today they are more likely to wear either blue baseball caps or combat helmets.


1 Historical use of firearms 2 Formation 3 Current role

3.1 Training 3.2 Operational firearms support

3.2.1 Armed response vehicles 3.2.2 Counter Terrorist Specialist Firearms Officer

4 Equipment and firearms 5 See also 6 References 7 Further reading

Historical use of firearms[edit] At its formation in 1829, the police service did not routinely carry firearms, but Home Secretary
Home Secretary
Sir Robert Peel
Robert Peel
did authorise the Commissioner to purchase fifty pairs of flintlock pistols for use in emergencies—such as those that involved the use of firearms. As time progressed, the obsolete flintlocks were decommissioned from service, being superseded by early revolvers. At the time, burglary (or "house breaking" as it was then called) was a common problem for police, and "house breakers" were often armed. Due to killings of officers by armed criminals in the outer districts of the metropolis, and after public calls debating whether Peel's service should be fully armed, the Commissioner applied to Peel for authorisation to supply officers in the outer districts with revolvers. The authorisation was issued on the condition that revolvers could only be issued if, in the opinion of the senior officer, the officer could be trusted to use it safely, and with discretion. From that point, officers who felt the need to be armed, could be. The practice lasted until 1936, although the vast majority of the system was phased out by the end of the 19th century. In the 1860s, the flintlock pistols that had been purchased in 1829 were decommissioned from service, being superseded by 622 Beaumont–Adams revolvers firing the .450 cartridge, which were loaned from the army stores at the Tower of London
following the 1867 Clerkenwell bombing. In 1883, a ballot was carried out to gather information on officers' views about arming, and 4,430 out of 6,325 officers serving on outer divisions wanted to be issued with revolvers. The now-obsolete Adams revolver was returned to stores for emergencies, and the Bulldog 'Metropolitan Police' revolver was issued to officers on the outer districts who felt the need to be armed. On 18 February 1887, PC 52206 Henry Owen became the first officer to fire a revolver while on duty, after being unable to alert the inhabitants of a premises on fire. Following the Siege
of Sidney Street, one thousand self-loading Webley & Scott pistols were purchased. In 1914, the Bulldogs were withdrawn from service and returned to stores. Lord Trenchard standardised the issue of pistols among divisions with the amount of firearms issued depending on the size of the area;[when?] ten pistols with 320 rounds of ammunition were issued to divisional stations, six pistols with 192 rounds per sub-divisional station, and three pistols with 96 rounds to each section station. In 1936, the authorisation to carry revolvers on outer districts was revoked, and at the same time Canadian Ross rifles were purchased in the prelude to the Second World War. A review in 1952 following the Derek Bentley case
Derek Bentley case
found 15% of firearms in service to be defective; leading to Special Branch
Special Branch
and Royalty Protection Officers being re-armed with an early version of the Beretta automatic pistol. Formation[edit] As it was originally named, the Firearms Wing (designation D6) was formed as part of the Civil Defence and Communications Branch. The wing was formed in response to the murder of three officers.[5] The Commissioner requested applications from officers within the service who had experience in the handling of firearms, such as ex-members of the armed forces or those who attended shooting clubs. The officers who applied were sent to the Small Arms Wing of the School of Infantry to become permanent instructors for the service's newly formed firearms wing. Upon the officers' return to the service they trained firearms officers. After the unit had changed its name from D6 to D11, level 1 and level 2 officer roles were created. Level 1 officers were primarily instructors, being operationally deployed only after a siege had been established to aid in the resolution of the incident. Level 1 officers qualified using the Webley & Scott revolver, or more recently the Browning High Power self-loading pistol, with some officers being trained and authorised to use the Enfield Enforcer 7.62 mm sniper rifle for counter-sniper roles. Throughout the 1970s, the branch increased in size, with additional firearms instructors being recruited to meet the increase in the demand for firearms training. During the 1970s, D11 officers qualified in the Smith & Wesson Model 36 and the Model 10 revolvers. During the early 1980s, a demand for operational firearms support from the department was perceived, owing to the creation of level 2 officers. The role of a level 2 officer was to deploy to planned and response operations that neither involved the taking of hostages nor suspects with exceptional firepower. In 1987, D11 was renamed to PT17, due to it now being a part of Personnel and Training. Officers at that time were issued with Browning self-loading pistols and Smith & Wesson Model 28 revolvers, along with training on the Heckler & Koch 93. In response to operational demands, the department underwent drastic restructuring in 1991. The roles of level 1 and 2 officers were merged to Specialist Firearms Officer, which continued to have much of the same role responding to planned firearms operation, kidnappings, and sieges. At the same time, a new title was created as Authorised Firearms Officer to crew the newly devised armed response vehicles (ARVs) to meet the increase in armed crime during 1991.[6] Using Rover 800 area cars adapted for specialist duties, ARV officers provided rapid response to spontaneous firearms incidents, such as armed robberies, being the first such organised system the capital had witnessed. Along with the restructuring of officer roles, for the first time the department came under control of the Specialist Operations Directorate, renaming the department to "SO19". Early ARV officers were issued with Smith & Wesson Model 10's, with others being trained in the use of the Heckler & Koch MP5 semi-automatic carbine. The Model 10 was later replaced by the Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol. Following a further reorganisation in 2005, SO19 become CO19, due to the department's move to the Central Operations Directorate, at the same time the department was renamed from the Force Firearms Unit to Specialist Firearms Command.[3] In January 2012 the branch underwent another name change, becoming SCO19 due to the merger of Central Operations (CO) and Specialist Crime Directorate (SCD) to form Specialist Crime & Operations. While the core function of the branch—to provide firearms training and support—remains unchanged since its creation, its role continually changes to meet the demands placed on it. The branch today fulfills different roles than it did 30 years ago. All aspects of armed policing in the UK are covered by guidance issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers in their manual of guidance on the Police use of firearms. This manual provides an overview of the basic principles such as rules of engagement and tactics involved in the use of firearms by police officers in different environments along with details of command structures that are in place in all planned and spontaneous firearms operations. Current role[edit]

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Training[edit] As of 2007, the Command is responsible for training the 2,594 Authorised Firearms Officers (AFOs) of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). These include officers from Protection Command, Counter Terrorism Command, Diplomatic Protection Group, the Aviation Security Operational Command Unit, the Flying Squad (SCD7[5]), Specialist and Royalty Protection Command
Protection Command
and the armed officers from SCO19 itself. Potential AFOs are invited to attend the Training Centre after they have undergone the written tests and interviews, and successfully completed their probationary period with a further two years in a core policing role. They undergo two weeks of intensive training on the Glock 17
Glock 17
Pistol and the Heckler & Koch MP5 carbine.[7] This is followed by a further seven weeks of training focused on ARV tactics and searching buildings.[7] ARV officers wishing to become Specialist Firearms Officers (SFOs) are required to attend an eighteen-week training course at the Metropolitan Police Specialist Training Centre (MPSTC).[7] The potential recruit is only invited to attend the centre if they have successfully passed written psychological tests and have been security cleared. Usually, the role of an SFO is to execute pre-planned operations or intervene in situations that are beyond the role of ARV officers. Potential SFOs are extensively trained on the safe use of specialist firearms, method of entry techniques to gain access to premises quickly (e.g., abseiling and 'fast rope' skills), scenario training (e.g., searching a specially adapted training aircraft), extensive use of tear gas and stun grenades, safe handling of rescued hostages and rescue techniques, computer-simulated 'war games' of potential threats (e.g., terrorist attacks), and training in the use of protective clothing against chemical, biological or radiological attack. Based at MPSTC, SCO19 provides initial and continuation training for all MPS firearms officers. There are more than twenty courses provided by SCO19 Instructors. Courses are based on the National Firearms Training Curriculum, to cover the variety of roles covered by AFOs in the MPS. The courses ranges from firepower demonstrations (to highlight the dangers of firearms to new MPS recruits) and initial firearms courses, to Firearms Incident Commander training and National Firearms Instructor courses. There were 683 courses run at MPSTC in the 2006–07 financial year. Operational firearms support[edit] Armed response vehicles[edit] Armed response vehicles (ARVs) deployed for the first time in London during 1991.[8] Following their success, forces outside of the capital later formed them throughout the early to mid-1990s. The concept of an ARV was influenced by West Yorkshire Police's Instant Response Cars, as used in 1976. Early ARVs contained a secure safe between the seats containing a .38 Smith & Wesson Model 10 for each member, with two 9 mm Heckler & Koch MP5 semi-automatic carbines secured in the boot. After ARVs became established, and the practice was accepted for widespread use, the Model 10 revolvers were replaced by more recent self-loading Glock 17s, firing 9 mm rounds. Revolvers and pistols could be removed from the secure safe by ARV members, if an "immediate threat to life" was posed, in the opinion of the ARV member. Authorisation to remove carbines required authorisation from the control room once they had contacted an officer of Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) rank. If a high-ranking officer could not be sought to gain authorisation, such could be given by a Chief Inspector
Chief Inspector
in an emergency. In recent years[when?] ARV members have carried their personal pistols on them as a matter of routine, and equipping of carbines rests on the judgement of the individual officer, although the control room must be informed of events. Each armed response vehicle is crewed by three uniformed AFOs, with each one fulfilling a specific role while responding to emergency calls believed to involve firearms. The driver is responsible for getting the crew to the scene in the fastest way possible, but with the main emphasis on public safety. The navigator is responsible for deciding which route the ARV takes, for example to avoid road diversions and other factors. The observer is responsible for liaising with other services on the scene, and requesting additional support if needed. Most ARVs are specially equipped and adapted BMW
area cars, identified as an ARV by a circular yellow sticker on the front and back windows, along with a star on the roof for helicopter identification. All Metropolitan Police ARVs have the callsign 'Trojan'.[citation needed] The workload of the ARVs has increased dramatically since their inception. In their first year, 1991, they were actively deployed on 132 occasions. In 2006, they deployed 2,232 times in response to 11,725 calls to spontaneous firearms incidents. The average response time of an ARV in London
is 8 minutes. Currently,[when?] SCO19 use BMW
X5's as their ARVs. Before these, BMW 5 series were used; however, these have become difficult to obtain, and most have been phased out of service in the MPS.[needs update] As of 2014,[update] every SCO19 officer carries a personal-issue Glock 17 self-loading pistol and a Taser model X26. On each ARV there are also two SG553 and for CTFO operating SG MXC. Weapons are stored in a weapons locker often in the rear of the ARV. The driver of the vehicle will always have their Glock 17
Glock 17
Pistol on them whilst driving however, passengers will have the SG553 on a sling.[9] Counter Terrorist Specialist Firearms Officer[edit] Counter Terrorist Specialist Firearms Officer
Specialist Firearms Officer
(CT-SFO) teams deal with MPS operations and also national firearms operations as part of the CTSFO Network.[10][9] They provide firearms support to borough and specialist units.[9] They are multi-skilled and can deliver all elements of armed policing, including operations to combat major crime, hostage taking and terrorism.[9] SCO19 has seven CT-SFO teams consisting of one sergeant and 15 constables, including females, with six CT-SFO Inspectors and an Operational Senior Manager with a reported strength of 130 officers.[10][11][12] An operational CT-SFO team works a 7-week shift-pattern which includes night duty.[10] CT-SFO teams are able to be deployed by air or the river, using armoured vehicles and motorcycles if needed.[13] On 28 July 2014, the single Armed Response Vehicle service was launched.[14] In preparation for the 2012 Summer Olympics
2012 Summer Olympics
held in London
in July 2012, officers were trained to a higher standard than SFO, known as Counter Terrorist Specialist Firearms Officer
Specialist Firearms Officer
(CT-SFO).[15] This included the use of live rounds during close quarters combat (CQC) training and fast-roping from helicopters, to be able to respond more effectively to terrorist incidents.[16][17][11][18] The training was conducted jointly with the United Kingdom Special
Forces.[19][11] On 30 June 2015, CT-SFO teams participated in Operation Strong Tower held in London, the largest counter-terrorism exercise conducted in the United Kingdom.[20] The MPS released statistics that between January 2015 and December 2015 CT-SFO teams were involved in 144 operations.[21] On 3 August 2016, the MPS held a press conference for the announcement of Operation Hercules, displaying the CT-SFO teams to the public wearing wolf-grey-coloured tactical uniforms, equipped with SIG Sauer SIG516 and SIG MCX
carbines, Glock 17
Glock 17
handguns, Remington 870 shotgun, Accuracy International AT308 sniper rile, and paraded the BMW
F800GS motorcycles used for deployments in central London.[22][23][24][25] On 19 March 2017, CT-SFO teams participated in maritime Exercise Anchor on the River Thames, their first joint major live-play exercise.[26][27] On 22 March 2017, CT-SFO teams rapidly deployed to the 2017 Westminster attack, which was reported to be their first significant marauding terrorist attack deployment since their formation.[28] CT-SFO teams use the Jankel
Guardian armoured vehicle based on a Ford F-450 chassis.[11][29] The CT-SFO training facilities at the MPS Specialist Training Centre includes indoor and outdoor live-fire shooting ranges, an assault house for practising method of entry (MOE) techniques and train, subway and aircraft mock-ups.[30] Equipment and firearms[edit] Main article: List of police firearms in the United Kingdom

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As of 2018, SCO19 use Heckler and Koch G36 and SIG Sauer SIG516s and SIG SAUER MCX as their main firearms. The SIG SAUER 716DMR is also used for Sniper Operations. Glock 17s are used as a sidearm. Officers are also equipped with the non-lethal X26 Taser. All officers also have the same basic equipment any other officer would have: ASP Baton, CS Gas, Speedcuffs, and a radio. SCO19 officers are equipped with bulletproof vests, instead of the standard stabproof vest which does have low level ballistic capability. See also[edit]

Police use of firearms in the United Kingdom Counter-terrorism Counter Terrorist Specialist Firearms Officer Specialist Firearms Officer Authorised Firearms Officer


^ "Firearms Command History". Metropolitan Police Service. Archived from the original on 27 July 2014.  ^ "SC&O19 Specialist Firearms Command". Metropolitan Police Service. Archived from the original on 8 July 2014.  ^ a b " Specialist Firearms Command (CO19)". Metropolitan Police Service. Archived from the original on 16 January 2009.  ^ "SC&O19 organisational structure - Freedom of Information request" (PDF). Metropolitan Police Service. Retrieved 24 March 2017.  ^ "Unofficial London
Metropolitan Police Firearms Unit". Special Operations. Retrieved 2009-02-13.  ^ "Police Firearms History". Police Firearms Association. Retrieved 2011-04-09.  ^ a b c "Firearms Training". Metropolitan Police Service. Archived from the original on 3 May 2012.  ^ "Armed Response Units (ARVs) & Specialist Firearms Officers (SFOs)". Metropolitan Police Service. Archived from the original on 3 May 2012.  ^ a b c d "SC&O19 Operational Capability". Metropolitan Police Service. Archived from the original on 27 July 2014.  ^ a b c "Guidance Note - Experienced Police Officers - Specialist Roles". Metropolitan Police Service. 11 February 2015. Archived from the original on 18 November 2015.  ^ a b c d Vikram Dodd (29 June 2015). " Scotland Yard
Scotland Yard
creates SAS-style unit to counter threat of terrorist gun attack". The Guardian.  ^ Greenwood, Chris (18 November 2015). "Chilling new face of police in Britain: Female 'robocops' dressed in military fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles are new face of counter-terrorism". Daily Mail. Retrieved 23 March 2017.  ^ Harris, Lord Toby (October 2016). "An independent review of London's preparedness to respond to a major terrorist incident" (PDF). Greater London
Authority. Retrieved 24 March 2017.  ^ Metropolitan Police Service. "2014" (PDF). The Job Magazine. December/January 2014/15 (75): 13. Retrieved 24 March 2017.  ^ "More firearms officers ready to protect the public". National Police Chiefs' Council (Press release). 19 April 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2017.  ^ "Firearms Training - Commissioner Briefing Paper" (PDF). Police & Crime Commissioner Greater Manchester. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2017.  ^ "Minutes of the ACPO Armed Policing Working Group" (PDF). National Police Chief's Council. Association of Chief Police Officers Minutes. 24 January 2013.  ^ Drweiga, Andrew (March 2013). "A Career Policing London's Skies". Rotor and Wing. Vol. 47 no. 3. Rockville, Maryland, US: Access Intelligence. p. 54. ISSN 1066-8098.  ^ "NPCC Lead for Armed Policing has said he is confident in the ability of firearms officers to protect the public". National Police Chiefs' Council (Press release). 18 November 2015. Retrieved 27 May 2017.  ^ Chorley, Matt (30 June 2015). "Britain prepares for its nightmare scenario: Police stage mock Tunisia-style 'marauding gun attack' on streets of London
in biggest ever counter-terrorism exercise in the UK". Daily Mail. Retrieved 23 March 2017.  ^ "Various questions inrelation to becoming an Armed Response Vehicle (ARV) officer - Freedom of Information Request". Metropolitan Police Service. 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 May 2017.  ^ "Armed officers increased to protect London". Metropolitan Police Service (Press release). 3 August 2016.  ^ Evans, Martin (3 August 2016). "The new heavily armed face of counter terror policing is revealed". The Telegraph. Retrieved 23 March 2017.  ^ Davis & Bishop, Margaret & Rachel (3 August 2016). "Hundreds of anti-terror 'Hercules' robocops sent to patrol Britain's streets in wake of deadly terror attacks across Europe". Mirror. Retrieved 23 March 2017.  ^ Sculthorpe, Tim (3 August 2016). "ISIS, meet the C-Men: Scotland Yard shows off the first of 600 awesomely armed (and masked) Counter-Terrorism firearms officers who hit the streets today in vans, boats and MOTORBIKES". Daily Mail. Retrieved 24 March 2017.  ^ "Major terrorism incident exercise on the River Thames". Metropolitan Police Service
Metropolitan Police Service
(Press release). 19 March 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.  ^ Cain, Kathryn (19 March 2017). "THAMES TERROR Armed cops storm 'hijacked' cruise boat in London
as part of anti-terror drill on the River Thames". The Sun. Retrieved 29 March 2017.  ^ Barns, Sarah (23 March 2017). "SUPER COPS How masked Counter-Terrorism officers clad in Kevlar body armour and equipped with an arsenal of weapons including ASSAULT RIFLES swooped on London terror scene". The Sun. Retrieved 29 March 2017.  ^ Phillips, Martin (19 November 2015). "The HERminator". The Sun. Retrieved 25 March 2017.  ^ "Police Specialist Training Centre". Cubic Defence UK. Retrieved 25 March 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

Collins, Steve (1999). The Glory Boys : True-life Adventures of Scotland Yard's SWAT, the Last Line of Defence in the War Against International Crime. London: Arrow Books. ISBN 9780099186922.  Collins, Steve (1997). The Good Guys Wear Black: The True-Life Heroes of Britian's Armed Police. London: Century. ISBN 9780712677288.  Gray, Roger (2006) [1st pub. The Trojan files:2000]. Armed Response: Inside S019: Scotland Yard's Elite Armed Response Unit (Updated ed.). London: Virgin. ISBN 9780753510490.  Gould, Robert W.; Waldren, Michael J. (1986). London's Armed Police: 1829 to the Present. London: Arms & Armour Press. ISBN 9780853688808.  Long, Tony (2016). Lethal Force: My Life As the Met’s Most Controversial Marksman. London: Ebury Press. ISBN 9781785034749.  Smith, Stephen (2013). Stop! Armed Police!: Inside the Met's Firearms Unit. London: Robert Hale. ISBN 9780719808265. 

v t e

Metropolitan Police Service

Cressida Dick
Cressida Dick
(Commissioner) Craig Mackey
Craig Mackey
(Deputy Commissioner)

Specialist Crime & Operations

Dog Support Unit Marine Policing Unit Mounted Branch Emergency Preparedness OCU Public Order OCU Specialist Firearms Command Traffic OCU Traffic Criminal Justice Unit Territorial Support Group Covert policing Economic and Specialist Crime Forensic Services Homicide and Serious Crime Command Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command Operations Trident and Trafalgar Serious and Organised Crime Command (Flying Squad)

Specialist Operations

Counter Terrorism Command Protection & Security Command

Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Royalty and Specialist Protection Aviation Policing

Territorial Policing Directorate

Central Communications Command Royal Parks Operational Command Unit Safer Transport Command Borough Command Unit Safer Neighbourhood Team

History Commissioner Deputy Commissioner Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime Mayor of London Metropolitan Police District Metropolitan Police F.C. Metropolitan Special
Constabulary New Scotland Yard Organisation and