The point is regularly made that British policing relies upon officers being “unarmed” and “policing by consent”. The events of one Friday night in north London yet again demonstrate that being armed is no impediment to honouring the finest traditions of British policing and law enforcement.
On Friday 23 May 2014 at around 10.45pm, Martin Finney, a firearms officer working on a surveillance operation had finished for the day and was walking back to his car in Tottenham, north London. As he did so, another man, Sedat Meric, wearing a balaclava and hoodie, began firing a semi-automatic handgun into West Green Road Pool Bar. Meric’s motive being linked to an on-going gang feud. The event itself and the immediate aftermath was captured on some CCTV:
Meric fired four shots into the pool bar – where some 30 people were gathered. Officer Finney witnessed the attack and – while being alone and not wearing body armour – identified himself, drew his gun and ordered the attacker to drop his gun. As can be seen in the footage, Meric refused to comply – opening fire on Officer Finney – with reports stating that one of the bullets fired missed by just a few centimetres.
Officer Finney returned fire and pursued Meric down the dark street. Meric eventually surrendered having run out of ammunition. Meric clearly had been determined to make good his escape – but was denied the opportunity by the tenacity of Officer Finney, resulting in the arrest of Meric by NCA colleagues.
During the trial of Meric – for the offence of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and the attempted murder of Officer Finney – His Honour Judge Michael Topolski said it was “miraculous” no-one was injured in the pre-meditated attack and that:
[Officer Finney] displayed all that is most creditable of police officers whom we trust to put their own safety on the back seat for the protection of the public. He acted with courage and resolve – literally in the face of live rounds being fired at him.
Meric was convicted and received a 15-year prison sentence for possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, but was found not guilty of the attempted murder.
Officer Finney, who has previously served in the army and police, has now been awarded the George Medal in recognition of his bravery.
Speaking of his pride at receiving the honour, he said:
I feel incredibly honoured to receive this award. To be associated with previous recipients of the George Medal is truly humbling. I have colleagues who have received awards, some posthumous, and to be honest I really don’t feel worthy to be in the same bracket as them.
Reliving the incident, he said:
I wasn’t going to cower behind a car. I wanted to arrest him. I just tried to make myself as small as possible and get a good shot back. He went around the corner and I moved for cover. I could see his eyes looking at me and the gun coming up. The NCA training is fantastic and kicks in. You can’t really be prepared in that position but you train so much that your confidence is there. At the back of my mind I didn’t know if he had already killed someone. His firing was totally indiscriminate; he had no regard for life. I was terrified somebody might have been hit.
Officer Finney dedicated his honour to his law enforcement colleagues, adding:
I love the job and working with the team. It is definitely the highlight of my career. You train incredibly hard, put massive hours in and work on some very important, dangerous operations. Nothing comes close to it. The medal is very much for my colleagues. I have always wanted to help keep people safe, we are trained to protect people and that’s the NCA’s ethos.
The incident also testifies to the value and importance of equipping and training officers to deal with the threats to public and officer safety that they can literally walk into. It also demonstrates the enormous potential good that can come from the presence of just one officer, in the right place at the right time. We are fortunate that on this occasion the law enforcement officer was also armed and therefore able to effectively respond to the threat.
Finally, we echo the remarks made by the National Crime Agency’s Director General, Lynne Owens:
Martin displayed such bravery in the face of extreme danger and he thoroughly deserves this prestigious award. He protected the public, confronting a gunman who was firing his loaded weapon repeatedly. It was a truly heroic act and we are all so proud of him.
We salute and commend his courage and bravery in helping remove a very real and serious threat to public safety from our streets.