has gained exclusive behind-the-scenes access to Scotland Yard’s elite
firearms unit CO19. The resulting
report will be broadcast in a one-hour special documentary this Friday, 14
July, at 8pm.
White, the reporter who bagged the scoop tells Press Gazette about his time
spent with this notoriously secretive police department.
These officers are not natural self-publicists
central London, wearing a bulletproof vest… to be honest I felt a bit of a
fraud. These were hardly the restive
streets of downtown Baghdad. But I had
no choice. If I wanted to accompany the
officers of the Met's Armed Response unit CO19, then the vest stayed. I wasn't going to argue. I had spent months trying to persuade
Scotland Yard to give me access to this secretive department. Because of the dangers they face and the
sensitive nature of their work, these officers are not natural self-publicists.
The intense media scrutiny following Stockwell and Forest Gate has made them
deeply suspicious of the press.
the events that day, a year ago, when Jean Charles De Menezes was shot dead by
armed officers, which sparked my interest in this department. I was based down
at Stockwell, reporting live for Sky News in the aftermath of the
shooting. In the weeks that followed,
the plight of the Menezes family was well reported… the impact on the
officers who opened fire and their colleagues was not. I could see the logic of my request. The
same couldn't be said for Scotland Yard.
With Sir Ian Blair under intense pressure over the shootings, the last
thing the Met wanted to do was open itself up to more criticism.
Gun crime makes up the bulk of their
"Time and persistence finally paid off, with
confirmation in March that I could film the work of the unit's Armed Response
Teams. Although it is their anti-terrorist
work that grabs the headlines, it is gun crime that makes up the bulk of their
workload, as I found out within minutes of our first shift with CO19. A crackled female voice on the officer’s
radio and moments later our patrol car kicked into high gear, weaving through
congested streets to South West London.
Our arrival was greeted by the most harrowing of scenes… a teenager
lying on the pavement, CO19 officers frantically pumping his chest as this
young life drained away before us.
18-year-old Fabian Ricketts had been shot through the heart by another
"We were witnessing the latest
horrific manifestation of a relatively new and deeply worrying trend… of
younger and younger people now carrying and using guns. My
three months with the department was a real eye opener. We rarely report gun crime these days. I'd forgotten how prevalent it is. I won't
miss the body armour, but zipping through snarled up traffic, that I will miss."