The family of a man shot dead by a Metropolitan police firearms officer say they have been “blindsided” by the discovery that the officer is training colleagues in how to handle guns despite facing gross misconduct charges over the fatal shooting.
The firearms officer, known only as W80, shot dead Jermaine Baker, 28, who was sitting in a car close to Wood Green crown court in north London in December 2015. Baker and others were attempting to free a prisoner, Izzet Eren, who was being brought to court in a prison van to be sentenced for a firearms offence. Baker died from a single gunshot wound.
In October 2020 the court of appeal ruled W80 can face misconduct proceedings, after a challenge by the police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct. Criminal charges against W80 were dropped in 2017.
W80 is a key witness in a public inquiry into the fatal shooting, which is due to start on 14 June. At a recent pre-inquiry hearing it emerged that W80, who is serving as a counter-terrorism specialist firearms officer for the Metropolitan police (MPS) while also facing gross misconduct charges, is posted to the SCO19 specialist firearms command as a national firearms instructor.
The hearing was told he intended to return to operational duties and ultimately become an armed close protection officer.
Baker’s mother, Margaret Smith, said: “As a family, we felt blindsided by the news that W80 is actually training other firearms officers – frankly, it feels like the Metropolitan police want to insult us. W80 is due to face disciplinary proceedings for gross misconduct for shooting Jermaine and his actions are the subject of an ongoing public inquiry. It is completely irresponsible for the MPS to allow him to act as a firearms instructor.
“How can the public have any trust and confidence in the MPS and its officers when they are being trained by someone facing a charge of gross misconduct? We feel very disappointed and let down, and we expect the public will feel the same.”
Michael Oswald and Amy Ooi of Bhatt Murphy solicitors, who act for the family, said: “W80 shot and killed Jermaine Baker in circumstances which the IOPC found gave rise to a case to answer for gross misconduct. Gross misconduct means a breach of police professional standards so serious that it would justify dismissal from the police force. That decision by the IOPC has been upheld by the court of appeal. It is therefore surprising and troubling to learn that the Metropolitan police service considers W80 suitable to be training other firearms officers.”
An Met spokesperson said: “W80 is not on restricted duties and remains posted to the specialist firearms command in a training role under the supervision of a lead instructor. Those being trained follow a curriculum and are subject to thorough assessment, which is carried out by different officers to ensure integrity in the process consistent with authorised professional practice from the College of Policing.
“Legal matters around the judicial review brought by W80 in connection with gross misconduct proceedings continue and W80 continues to be fully supported by the MPS. Our thoughts remain with all those who have been affected by this matter.”
The IOPC case focused on when use of force by a police officer was – or was not – justified. W80 argued that use of force was justified if an officer honestly believed a particular situation required it. The IOPC said if that belief, even if honestly held, was unreasonable or irrational, police should not be allowed to escape sanctions for use of force.
The ruling provides clarification of the test to be applied when determining whether a police officer’s use of force amounts to misconduct. It confirms that where officers say they have made an honest mistake that they faced imminent danger, the force used in response may amount to misconduct if that belief was unreasonable.