...a blog by Richard Flowers

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Day 2496: Police! Stop or I'll Not Resign!


Let's start with a statement of the OBVIOUS: you CANNOT make the public more SAFE by SHOOTING them at RANDOM.

We listened to the wise words of Mr Brian on Questionable Time last night, saying it was TOO SOON to call for the resignation of Sir Ian clone of Lord Blairimort, that we should not RUSH to JUDGEMENT. There is the report of the Independent Police Complaints Commission to be published in the next few days, and then there will be an Inquest. Mr Brian is right – we should wait for those.

And THEN Sir Ian should resign.

Reaction to the guilty verdict in the case of Jean Charles de Menezes has been MIXED: Mr Mayor Ken says that Sir Ian has his FULL SUPPORT. Everyone else thinks he should GO.

Leadership candidate Mr Clogg, with his Liberal Democrat Home Secretary hat on, put it well when he said:

"It's absolutely nothing personal about Ian Blair. I have a lot of admiration for him. I just start though from a very simple principle that policing needs to be seen to be accountable."

This is the key point: it's about TRUST.

You have to appreciate what a rock and a hard place Mr Brian found himself in: he has worked for the police all his professional life, he knows these people and the job that they do – and especially how difficult it is. This is what would make him such a GOOD candidate for the Mayor of London: he UNDERSTANDS.

It was a BRAVE decision to support his former colleagues and try to explain a more NUANCED position, especially when the POPULIST PUNDITS – Ms Eggwena Curry, I am looking at YOU – are saying fatuous things like "less of this building relationships with the community; we want the police to catch criminals". Oh and just HOW do you think the police go about "catching criminals" WITHOUT building community relations?

It's about TRUST.

Mr Mayor Ken has said that the court's decision will make it more difficult to protect London from terrorists. HE IS WRONG.

(And, yes, this is the Labour attacking the courts (AGAIN!) because they don't believe the Rule of Law, only in the Rule of the Daily HateMail)

The REAL moment it got more difficult to protect London was the moment that Sir Ian – without knowing the truth – gave a press conference saying that they HAD shot a terrorist when in fact they HADN'T, and members of his police force KNEW that they hadn't.

Because that means that people do not believe him and do not trust his policepeople and that is the SECOND most UNFORTUNATE thing about the de Menezes case. And although Mr Brian may see and know about the GOOD IMPROVEMENTS that Sir Ian has made, there remains that VITAL question of TRUST.

It is tragic but UNDERSTANDABLE that mistakes can be made – even mistakes that end up with an innocent person dead.

But it is NOT acceptable that the police should DENY making those mistakes, cover up, mislead even DECEIVE people about those mistakes. That makes EVERYONE'S lives more dangerous – not just from the risk of FLYING BULLETS, but because it will DRY UP the sources of INFORMATION that the police and security services need in order to stop things before it is too late!

A police force that makes mistakes – and mistakes WERE made – is not protecting London as well as a police force that gets things right. And a police force that is IN DENIAL about those mistakes will make them again and again.

Someone DIED, and we have not been told how it went so wrong. We need to know what it was and we need to know that it was FIXED.

  • Why was the building only being watched by one officer? Even the most bumbling spy knows that you need AT LEAST two observers in case one gets "caught short" – which is EXACTLY what happened!
  • Why was Mr de Menezes not stopped before getting on a bus? Or onto a second bus? Or before entering the tube? Apparently the police were waiting for the armed officers – or, more accurately, the MORE HEAVILY armed officers – but why did they not know those officers would arrive too late? Does this not mean that the police allowed a person THEY BELIEVED to be a terrorist to REACH his TARGET?
  • Why is it possible to get to a situation where armed officers respond on a shoot-to-kill basis against a man they can clearly see is restrained APPARENTLY without anyone instructing them to? Is it not EXTREMELY DANGEROUS to wind armed men up to a height of terror and then let them go running into a crowded tube? Pumped on ADRENALINE they nearly shot one of the surveillance officers too.
  • Why did Sir Ian give out misleading statements at his press conference? Who briefed him? Did no one tell him his briefs were on fire? Did they have direct knowledge of the incident? Didn't he CHECK with someone who did? And why didn't THEY tell him the truth?
  • And why did the defence go to seemingly ANY lengths – distorting photographic evidence, character assassination (Traces of cocaine alleged to be in his system? Hey, he was only a druggie!) – to try and avoid a guilty verdict?
The police have NOT answered these questions. Instead they have DENIED getting things wrong and denied that they endangered the public, even though one member of the public was very obviously endangered TO DEATH.

On the CRUDEST LEVEL, Sir Ian's decisions – including the decision to contest this case – have cost the London taxpayers over half a million pounds because he wouldn't accept that mistakes had been made.

Mr Mayor Ken makes more excuses:

"Police officers operated against suicide bombers in conditions of extreme danger – and subject to strains – both of risk to themselves and of their desire to safeguard Londoners lives, that no one not in their position can understand."

But that is FLIM FLAM trying to distract us from the point. NO ONE is blaming the firearms officers. They were placed in a position there they believed they were "in conditions of extreme danger" and they did their job. But who put them there and why did they genuinely believe they were in danger? Because that belief is what killed an innocent man.

In a case, ANY case where lethal force is thought to be necessary, there MUST be someone who is responsible. If there isn't, then bullets will end up flying at random and people will get killed. There has GOT to be something wrong with a system that allows that to happen. And the person responsible HAS GOT TO BE the man at the top who – ultimately – is in charge of the operations and systems and procedures.

You might think that that is not fair – making one person be responsible for a decision, a decision that could cost them their JOB. Well, it cost someone his LIFE.

But do not have NIGHTMARES! This is, thankfully – and as the Judge pointed out – a very RARE incident. How many times have the police wrongly shot a suspected terrorist? Only Mr de Menezes. And the Forest Gate incident.

And just remember how many times they have shot a GENUINE terrorist in that time… oh.


Mr Brian said...

What a wise young elephant you are!

HE Elsom said...

It terrible that Mr De Menezes was killed, but they did kill him because they believed he was going to kill a lot of other people. They had to have a plan in place for what to do when they thought somebody was a suicide bomber, and it's not the fault of the police -- and our good luck really -- that they didn't have the experience of real suicide bombers to help them decide, only a check list from (I think) the Israeli special forces, who do know from suicide bombers unfortunately.

What's really bad, and why Ian Blair probably should resign, is that the police have kept on saying that it was somehow Mr de Menezes' fault that he was shot, instead of admitting that they got it wrong.

They really need to learn what they got wrong here in case they ever meet a real suicide bomber.