Wednesday, July 27, 2005

We Come In Peace....

Daphne: It makes me glad we don't have so many guns in England
Frasier: You don't need them. You've got steak and kidney pudding.

This is bad. Really, really bad. Bad on the "if this wasn't so really, really, really bad, it would actually be extremely funny" scale. One imagines Mr. Blair sitting down last Thursday and saying "Right, then: what's the worst thing we could possibly do? Well let's go for it! It's last thing anybody will be expecting!"

I'm not even sure if I ought to be writing this. P.C Plod has asked Tony for new powers to "suppress inappropriate internet usage". So of course, I'm checking back over my recent articles. There was that one where the words "Galloway" "Maybe" "Point" and "George" occurred in the same sentence. The one where I said "I can see how Johnny Muslim might be feeling a bit aggrieved, right now." And of course, the one where I said "Haven't we all, at one time or another, got on a train a blown ourselves to smithereens. Youthful high spirits, don't you know." So it's quite likely that, before I finish this piece, a british bobby on the beat will burst into house and shoot me. Through the head. Eight times.

If you come from Foreign, you'll probably find it strange that the English are still surprised when one of our bobbies on the beat shoot at someone. But we are. Our peelers are still generally unarmed. Most people from England have never seen a gun. The first time I went to Abroad when I was a kid, I literally couldn't believe that the French police had guns on their holsters. I couldn't take my eyes off them. I thought that kind of thing only happened in cowboy films. Hence the general sense of shock. This isn't America, where (I understand) primary school teacher carry shotguns and civil litigation is generally settled with pistols on mainstreet at high noon.

(It doesn't help that it happened at Stockwell. I didn't even know that Stockwell was a real place; I thought it was just a conceptual entity which existed in order for me to change branches of the Nothern Line.)

I'm not saying police should never have guns. No-one, apart from the Dali Lama doubts that there are some circumstance where the use of "lethal force" is the least worst option. I made a list of circumstances under which a British bobby on the beat might reasoanbly be expected to splatter someones brains over the platform.

I came up with the following list:

1: Someone presents such a serious and immediate danger to you, your fellow officer, or the public, that they have to be put completely out of action in the next five seconds.

An example of a "serious and immediate danager" might be "They are carrying a bomb, or you have good reason to think they are carrying bomb"

An example of a "good reason" would be "They are running down the street saying 'Look at me, I've got a bomb' ".

An example of "not a very good reason at all" would be "They are wearing an anorak of the sort that you could probably stuff a bomb down if you were the sort of person who went around with bombs stuffed down their anoraks."

Based on literally hours of painstaking research playing computer games, my understanding is that if someone is, say, brandishing a chainsaw or a shotgun, then there are ways of restraining them without being posthumous. Shooting them in the leg or the chest would probably do the trick. It's quite hard for an axe-wielding maniac to carry on wielding his axe if he he's preoccupied with the fact that blood is pouring out of his chest. But if you were planning to blow yourself to the Islamic equivilent of Kingdom-Come the fact that you are severely wounded won't necessarily stop you from lighting the blue touch paper. It might actually act as an insentive. So the English bobby on the beat can't afford to let his suspected suicide bomber so much as twitch. The only foolproof way to stop him detonating himself is to make sure that he is devoting one hundred per cent of his attention to some other activity e.g being dead.

But not everyone sees it like this. On Saturday morning, the tabloids were finding it hard to conceal their glee at the fact that a baddie having been killed. "One down, three to go" explained the "Daily Express", as if we were hunting down and summarily executing some sort of alien rodent. Shoot-to-kill wasn't a tactic in life-or-death situation; it was a declaration of war against terrorists in general. The only good terrorist is a bad terrorist, its easy to talk about the human rights of these scum but what about the human rights of the people who were blown up on the tube do you think if they took you hostage they'd give you a fair trial.

The reason that hanging was finally abolished in the 1950s was that the British public, who could deal with and I imagine quite enjoyed the idea of smalltime gangsters gurgling on the ends of pieces of rope, became squeamish about doing it to innocent people. The abolitionists didn't say "ritual strangulation doesn't seem very Chrisitan, does it, chaps?"; they said "Evans, Hanratty, Ellis, Bentley" as if that settled the argument; which, indeed, it did. It's rather impressive that the first beneficiary of this new fast-track capital punishment system should turn out to be a miscarriage of justice on a similar scale. Let's hope we can proceed directly to abolition, like we did last time.

All may be well, and all manner of things may be well. Maybe the british bobby on the beat had some intelligence...I'll rephrase that: maybe he had a very good reason, which we don't yet know but which will come out at the inquest, to think that the recepient of his target practice was about to let off a bomb. In that case we're in the realm of cock-up, not conspiracy. "Oh, did we say shoot the guy at number 23? We meant the guy at number 24. How incredibly embarassing." Accidents happen.

But the minute someone says "We knew he didn't have a bomb, but we thought he was a terrorist; and if he's a terrorist, then it doesn't matter very much if he has a bomb today – he's going to have one sooner or later, and the best thing to do is to liquidate him" -- the minute we go from "shooting to kill terrorists who are an immediate threat" to "shooting to kill terrorists" then things are really, really bad.

A fortnight ago, we had nothing more to fear than psychotic fundementalists with semtex in their rucksacks, and the web was full of inspirational pictures of chirpy Londoners telling the world that "We are not afraid." Now, the danger is from british bobbies on the beat with automatic pistols, who apparently believe that it is a truth universally accepted that a dark-skinned man in possession of a thick jacket must be in want of bullet through the head.

Speaking for myself, We Are Bloody Terrified.

This is, as I believe I mentioned, really, really bad. But in one respect, it could have been so much worse. If there was a million strong community of radical, militant Brazillians in this country; and if many of them already felt agrreived, alienated or marginalised -- where would we have been on Sunday morning?


Helen Louise said...

I don't really have much to say, but I agree with you totally :) It's one thing to grab a potential terrorist, but another entirely to kill him just in case. "Shoot first, ask questions later!"

Chestertonian Rambler said...

I'm in Oxford for the summer, and had a rather depressing conversation with a barkeeper the other day. He was talking about the needed increase in security measures, and I mentioned how relaxing it felt to walk by policemen who didn't have guns (I've actually asked bobbies for directions!) His response:

"Well, sooner or later we'll end up following you guys in everything."

I certainly hope not. America may have a lot of virtues, but our mindless ends-justifies-the-means obsession with practicality is not one of them.

"Finland, Finland, Finland
That is the land for me..."

Mike Taylor said...

As always the attitude of the press doesn't make it any easier to get to the bottom of this sad story. I was struck by the Evening Standard headlines blaring from the boards the day after the killing: Shooting Victim Had Expired Visa. I thought to myself, ``That'll bloody show him''. The sense coming from the press really did seem to be that if foreigners are going to go wilfully walking around London with expired visas, then they jolly well deserve what's coming to them.

Ah, England sweet England.

As is so often the case when it comes to issues of Government, the Americans have the ideas nailed down far better then we do. (I mean good, honest, long-dead Americans such as Abraham Lincoln, of course; not nasty contemporary Americans such as George W. Bush). These two observations spring to mind:

"It is the duty of a patriot to protect his country from its government" -- Thomas Paine.

"The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government" -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Unknown said...

American Ronin:

1) I take it as somewhat indicative of how bad America is that we consider a crime victim to have three options: a) be victimized, b) "wait" for police (who are not particularly expected to be of use in this scenario) or c) shoot his or her assailant. (We see this in Florida's recent redefinition of a "self-defense" shooting, of which I'm sure you are aware if you hang out in the blogosphere.)

2) Some of us even think that a woman violently assaulted should have options other than a) and b). What is this, 1850?

Unknown said...

Andrew, I've been reading your blog for quite a while (well, actually, first the older page, then the blog), but this really made me want to say something.

I'm a brazilian, and I can tell you this: people here are pissed. Anti-american sentiment is at an all-time high, and though people have been bunching the British together with the Americans for quite a while now, criticism to the British was nowhere as vicious as it was towards the US. And then this happened.

To hear that a brazilian was killed because of a policeman's stupid mistake is bad enough, but the British government's half-assed apology and the fact that instead of being arrested the policeman who did this was put on paid holiday- that really added insult to injury. I know the English are a good people, and that the london bombing shook you all up pretty badly, but still... people are angry at Blair, at Bush (it seems everything that ever goes bad that is remotely related to international politics is Bush's fault), and at the racist attitude that made the policeman shoot the poor man eight times for having a darker skin tone and speaking with an accent. And though I've never shared any hatred towards any country, and especially not towards England, I must admit I'm pretty angry as well.

Larraine said...

Now wait a minute primary school teachers don't, as a rule, carry guns. At least not in the classroom. At least not for now. Also civil litigation is still done in courts. Honest. Unless of course the loser isn't happy with the results. An attorney in California was shot by a former client. Apparently the fellow was not happy with the quality of representation he received. Meanwhile, the state of Virginia now allows people to walk around with concealed weapons on their person. Also several bright Republicans want to end Washington, D.C.'s restrictive gun laws. Despite the concept of states' rights, Repubs love to meddle when it comes to something they hold sacred - like guns.Still - I understand your shock. Your guys didn't even carry guns until recently. However wasn't there a concern that the guy shot might blow up his backpack? What a world we live in. Osama Bin Laden said that we would lose our rights. And he was right!

Phil Masters said...

Your guys didn't even carry guns until recently.

Point of information; not so. Most UK cops have never carried guns and still don't. Under some circumstances (mostly involving possibly-armed suspects), some officers (supposedly specially selected and trained for the purpose) can be issued with guns. Some units (e.g. the Diplomatic Protection Group) are actually armed most of the time, though the public likes to forget this.

There may be more firearms being dished out to more cops more of the time these dayes than previously - certainly in the last month - but the number of officers permitted to carry them is unlikely to have gone up much in that time. Anyway, if one digs through the history of armed policing in the UK, one runs into quite a lot of black comedy. Like, back in the '30s, some of the Metropolitan Police Night Patrols were discovered to have been routinely carrying pistols for years, without anyone noticing. Fortunately, they'd never actually fired them - probably fortunately, given the rusty collection of Victorian-era service revolvers and junk which emerged from various pockets when some senior officer thought to ask.

gtk123 said...

I can think of a few other options (none perfect of cause), but they revolve around reducing the likelihood of getting into trouble, and would do no good if you actually got into that situation:

5) Be alert and cautious, so you are less likely to get into trouble.

6) Insitute strict weapon control laws, so it would be difficult for the average assailant to get hold of a long range weapon.

7) Tackle the sociological issues that contribute to criminality.

Personally, I am a bit more sceptical than some about the amount of use having a gun would be. I suspect in most violent assaults the attack would come by supprise, and a gun would not be much help (that was my experience when I got mugged). What American Ronin said about defenders guns causing the assailant to back off only counts the successes. It is not clear to me that pulling a gun would always be of benefit (eg, it might escalate a robbery into a shooting).

Phil Masters said...

A "puffer jacket" would generally be a padded warm, well, jacket; an "anorak" would be waterproof, less padded, and maybe slightly longer, with a hood. Either could, I guess, cover a fairly serious amount of explosive, and would look a bit odd in the sort of weather we had in the UK that day (though a Brazilian would doubtless have considered it rather cool).

On the other hand, at least one recent report suggests that he was just wearing a lightweight denim jacket. All information still hazy.

Personally, I think the details of the actual scene are a bit marginal. When you've got armed cops confronting somebody they think might be a suicide bomber - well, a cop might make a reasonable (but incorrect) judgement call, or an honest mistake, or he might over-react in the heat of the moment, or he might suddenly turn into a trigger-happy idiot. The point is that something on these lines is very likely (though if it's the last in this case, I hope that he suffers the legal consequences); once you've got this situation, the suspect is pretty likely to end up dead.

So the real issue has to be with whoever pointed those armed cops at an innocent target in the first place. They're running surveillance in a life-and-death situation, and they end up trailing the wrong man, plus they let him get on and off a bus despite the fact that they supposedly think that he might be a suicide bomber, and then ask plain-clothes cops to deal with the situation as he enters a busy underground station. That's just criminal incompetence at the command level, and it's the supervising officers I'd really want to see hung out to dry, frankly.

At minimum, I'd also hope to hear that some officers were leaving the force after this, frankly. Somebody killed an innocent man. Any cop who can still stomach the job after being responsible for that isn't fit to be in the police in the first place.

(The slick efficiency of Scotland Yard in this case looks a bit uncertain at times. The arrests last week were all very dramatic, but when the TV shows an armed cop ineffectually trying to get into an empty flat, while two young kids wander out of an adjacent door and, apparently, complain that he's upsetting their gerbil - well, I worry some more.)

Phil Masters said...

Its a tragedy, without doubt.

How nice to hear so many people acknowledge this, before they start making excuses. (I don't normally share Andrew's allergic reaction to Tony Blair, but the sight of him waffling on these lines made me quite seriously angry.)

If a bomb had gone off, however - when the police were in a position to stop that happening, and my family were killed as a consequence, I would have been very much annoyed.

And there's no chance that any of your family will ever be shot eight times in the head by an over-zealous or badly directed policeman. Obviously.

(For that matter, if that guy had been a suicide bomber, and had detonated a bomb on the bus he used just before he was shot, I imagine there might have been some unhappiness from people's families.)

The guy left a house under surveilance,

Which he knew how, exactly?

ran towards an underground after being repeatedly told to stop by armed police.

Reports vary. The best I've been able to pick up seem to suggest that he was challenged maybe once, by armed men who certainly weren't wearing any sort of uniforms. The police have specifically said that they're permitting themselves to shoot people dead without any warning whatsoever.

As a general rule, if staying alive is your thing, doing the opposite of what people with guns tell you, isn't the best of moves.

It's easy to tell people how they should act in high-stress situations. It's a lot harder to follow that advice. (I've never had a real gun pointed at me, but I can say for a fact that my first responses in less serious but equally unexpected circumstances have usually been all over the shop.) Armies spend months training their recruits how to respond in such circumstances, and don't always succeed.

Its easy to play moral philosopher after the fact.

Just like it's always easy to tell dead people how they should have acted. However, the police are paid to deal with tricky situations calmly and with minimum necessary force. When there's evidence that they aren't doing so, we're entitled to criticise.

Andrew Rilstone said...

What would you have suggested they done?

If they had real and specific evidence that he had a bomb, then they should have used the absolute minimum possible force to prevent him letting it off. I understand that the absolute minimum force in those circumstances would be "blow his brains out."

If they did not have real and specific evidence that he had a bomb, but still wanted to question him, they should have used non lethal force to apprehend him, and if they couldn't apprehend him non-lethally, they should have let him get away.

I don't think that "looking a bit suspicious" or "running away from a police officer" should carry the death penalty.

And no-one is discussing moral philosphy, that I have spotted. If we didn't all agree on the philosphical principles (murder is a bad thing, the state is permitted to use lethal force in extreme circumstances, mistakes are forgivable but we need to know that it was the sort of mistake a reasonable person could have made, anything on the front page of the Daily Mail can be assumed to be untrue) we would not be discussing practical matters about police response to terrorism.

Phil Masters said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Phil Masters said... this picture for real?

As the follow-up discussion on that page says, it's quite likely a real scene, but doubtless a joke.

(There's apparently also a joke e-mail doing the rounds advertising transparent backpacks for Asian-looking tube travellers.)

Phil Masters said...

Firstly, its not 'excuses',

Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...

and secondly, just because someone is adopting another position on the matter, it doesn't make their appreciation of its tragedy any less than yours, or anyone elses.

However, the moment people start getting mealy-mouthed, and inserting "buts" and "howevers" into the discussion of an inexcusable, murderous cock-up, it sounds very, very like an excuse.

To save you asking; the correct official response to this incident, in my opinion, would have been for Blair and/or a very senior police officer to stand up and say "We screwed up inexcusably; we apologise unreservedly for that, we're immediately withdrawing and reviewing the special rules under which our officers are operating, and everyone directly involved in this appalling incident is suspended from duty immediately, pending an independent investigation and probably disciplinary procedures. And if the investigation says that the ultimate blame rests with me, I will of course resign."

Apart from anything else, that might have restored a little bit of confidence in the police in certain places where it's absolutely required. As they keep telling us, and rightly, dealing with the terrorist problem is going to require a lot of help and cooperation from the public. People have to be persuaded to report stuff that might be crucially important.

For example, I think I read that one of the 21/7 suspects was identified by his own family when his photograph was published (but before the Brazilian guy was killed). That would be a hard decision for anyone, but it was right, and absolutely essential; if someone's planning to blow himself up in a public place, the best chance of saving him and a lot of other people is to get the cops to arrest him.

But now, consider the situation of someone who thinks that an old friend or family member might be involved in one of the nutcase death-cults. Should they call the police? Perhaps. But the police are shooting on suspicion, without warning. Making that call is apparently going to put that friend or relation in line for summary execution.

So what do you reckon are the chances of a normal person making that call now?

And there's no chance that any of your family will ever be shot eight times in the head by an over-zealous or badly directed policeman. Obviously.

I'm not sure. I doubt that they will. I also doubt that they would run away from armed police.

Must be nice to have a family who have nothing but cool heads and iron nerves (and perfect hearing). Some of the rest of us are more human.

But you have no idea whether the policeman was over-zealous, or that he was badly directed, so blanket condemnation isnt warranted.

Indeed. I'm trying to be provisional about any specific suggestions or opinions I offer, because - as ever - the details of news reports are changing from day to day. For example, it was initially said that the victim had vaulted the ticket barrier; more recently, it's been suggested that this was in fact one of the cops.

The guy left a house under surveilance,

Which he knew how, exactly?

Its irrelevant how he knew.

He didn't know - couldn't have known - that. Implying that he could sounds like a weaselly attempt to shift blame away from the people who killed him.

Reports vary. The best I've been able to pick up seem to suggest that he was challenged maybe once, by armed men who certainly weren't wearing any sort of uniforms.

I'd suggest that was selective reading.

I've not seen a single suggestion, anywhere, that he was challenged by uniformed officers. If you have, please don't just make vague "suggestions" - provide details.

As to how many challenges were issued - that's in the realm of uncertainty at present (and may well stay there forever). But the reports I've seen imply that there was just one challenge. For example, see

(Noting that this is a conservative newspaper quoting police sources.)

However, I'm sure the inquest will make conclusive findings.

I hope that they'll try. As other people have noted on this thread, even trained policemen often turn out to have (genuinely) unreliable recall of such events.

The police have specifically said that they're permitting themselves to shoot people dead without any warning whatsoever.

I havent read that.

Google for "Kratos guidelines". See, for example, the Telegraph story above, or

(It even appears that, by insisting that they issued a challenge in this case, the police are claiming to have violated their own guidelines - possibly because "We shot him without warning because that's the rule, sorry, honest mistake" would have looked even worse.)

If someone shouted "Armed police! stop!", I'd stop.

I suggest that it's easy to say that; it's a lot harder to prove the fact without really getting into life-and-death situations. And even then, other people are entitled to have other reflexes.

Armies spend months training their recruits how to respond in such circumstances, and don't always succeed.

No, they spend months training recruits how to shoot people, and avoid being shot. "Surrender or be killed" comes naturally.

From what I've been told, this isn't entirely true. Apparently, for example, much military training is about getting people to dive for cover when they hear a whoosh and a bang, before they go "Hey, what was that" or look around gawping to see where the fireworks are coming from. Human responses to stress are weird and messy, and neither perfectly predictable nor always very effective. (We evolved to handle leopards and lions, often by climbing trees or leaving grandma behind as we ran; we aren't really set up to handle artillery fire or small black metal implements that can kill at a distance.)

But if there's someone here with real infantry combat training, I'd be happy to have my knowledge improved.

However, the police are paid to deal with tricky situations calmly and with minimum necessary force. When there's evidence that they aren't doing so, we're entitled to criticise.

As far as I can tell, they were perfectly calm. And they did deal with a tricky situation, and with what they considered to be the minimum necessary force.

Vaulting barriers, pumping eight rounds in someone's head... Maybe not perfectly or minimum.

What would you have suggested they done?

To begin with, actually, as I said several posts back in this thread, I'm not really sure that the cop who pulled the trigger should take the main blame here. I'll agree that he was in an impossible, even nightmarish situation. So anything that I think should have been done starts earlier.

First, they should have improved their intelligence operation. They "identified" a Brazilian electrician as a suicide bomber. I don't know how their intelligence operations work, but whatever they were doing there, they were doing it wrong.

Second, having misidentified the guy, they should have reacted quicker. If they really thought he was carrying a bomb, he should never have got on that bus. Which doesn't mean that they should have shot him sooner, necessarily, but frankly they could at least make their claim that they were doing what was "necessary" a lot more credible.

And third, they should have deployed uniformed officers to deal with the situation. Human reactions are messy and unpredictable, but yes, many people will respond to police uniforms by freezing up and turning cooperative. People in civilian clothes, yelling and waving guns, just look like a horrible threat to be avoided. They may have said something about being police, but in the echoing confusion of a rush-hour tube station, I'm not sure that would even be audible.

Phil Masters said...

In a legal sense (it appears) they weren't wrong to shoot him.

In fact, that appears to be in some dispute. See, for example, - the first letter under " Can 'shoot-to-kill' be reasonable force?" - and more importantly, given that the letter apparently comes from a lawyer, see - under "Was force 'reasonable'?".

I'm not a lawyer myself; I certainly wouldn't like to guess what a court would decide on this. But the idea that the police, or even the Home Secretary, are allowed to arbitrarily change the rules by which the police operate, removing requirements for warnings and so on, sounds questionable at best to me. I don't think that the point should be pre-judged.

I can remember people saying around the event that they thought they seen him with a bomb round his stomach.

A lot of things were said at the time, many of which have been contradicted since. All we can say is that the facts are still somewhat uncertain. However, the police are supposed to be trained in observation under pressure, and the guy definitely wasn't carrying a bomb - but they shot him anyway. This is highly bloody unimpressive.

Looking like an arab with a large coat, coming out a flat bombs were made in is enough to follow someone.

Has anybody said that bombs were being made in that building? I've not heard anything to that effect.

"Looking foreign and living in a building which the police are watching" may be grounds for observation. It's not usually a capital offence, though.

Failing to stop when told to do so by police,

No; possibly, "Failing to stop when shouted at by armed men in civilian clothes, who may have said something about being police".

(Incidentally, the police do appear to be insisting that they gave a verbal warning - but this destroys their grounds for using plain-clothes officers in this situation. It's just conceivable that they could be convinced enough that they had an imminent suicide bombing on their hands, and that the only way to stop it was to bring down the bomber instantly and with no warning, which might in turn require plain clothes. But otherwise, if the situation merited a warning, then the people with the guns should be clearly labelled as police, by wearing uniforms. Shouting out in an echoey and crowded tube station isn't good enough.)

and running desperately towards a tube station could be argued to be enough cumulative evidence that the man was a bomber.

You seem convinced that he was "running desperately" and that he jumped the ticket barrier. Both these claims have, in fact, been questioned.

You're complaining about other people pre-judging police actions on the basis of garbled reports - but you're also putting huge amounts of faith in other, equally garbled reports. In truth, neither is really fair - but given that we know that plain-clothes police put eight bullets into the head of an innocent man, killing him, the onus is heavily on them to demonstrate that they were justified. And some of us are having extreme difficulty believing that they can ever quite succeed.

Phil Masters said...

He bears some of the responcibility for this trajedy, but the people who put him in this situation without proper training, intelligence, back-up and alternate options bear much much more.

There, by the way, I absolutely agree. Whether the cop who pulled the trigger is a psycho or a saint is almost irrelevant; the "intelligence" operation that put him in that position was what was demonstrably screwed up. If he gets scapegoated while his superiors get left alone, I'll be appalled.

Incidentally, do British Police carry any sort of Less Lethal weapons? A Taser might have been a good option (Of course that might trigger a detonator), or an acoustic weapon; perhaps a sand bag gun to knock the guy over. I'm not sure, but I have to think that there is some kind of less lethal weapon that might be a better choice for police who are not used to carrying firearms.

Tasers are just coming in over here, albeit with some controversy themselves. (Pepper spray is also around in at least some forces; other less-than-lethal stuff is limited to riot actions or not used, I think.) However, the argument about this whole "shoot to kill" policy involves the point that, if you're really dealing with a suicide bomber, anything other than immediate total incapacitation gives him the chance to detonate the bomb - and a torso hit can detonate the explosive itself, which is why British police marksmen have suddenly switched from "centre of mass" to aiming for the head in these cases.

It's also been claimed that a taser not only doesn't incapacitate effectively enough, but again, might itself set off a bomb. (I don't know enough about home-made explosives to guess how true that is.)

In fact, despite all that, one suspect in the recent terrorism investigations was arrested, up in Birmingham, by cops using a taser. This led the head of the Metropolitan Police to more or less openly criticise his provincial colleagues for taking an "incredible risk", and no this sort of comment is not normal protocol between British police forces. (Frankly, this ends up looking like the London force are annoyed that other people are showing them up by not killing suspects.) The Birmingham police pointed out that all incidents are different, and presumably they didn't think that the target was likely to be wearing a bomb, but it's all led to a certain amount of debate.

Phil Masters said...

Jesus, did he really say that?


Chestertonian Rambler said...

Okay, is it just me, or are we missing the point here?

There are two questions at work here.

1) Did the officer who fired the gun follow protocol? If not, it seems to me that the situation is his fault, no matter how stress-induced.

2) If the officer followed protocol, is the protocol designed in a manner that allows summary executions of suspected bomb-holders?

Talking about specific details seems to muddy the waters. On the other hand, if the officer didn't follow protocol and that fact is ignored, there seems to be an even larger problem than Old Western style shoot-to-kill justice.

Or, to put it another way,
Did the officer follow the rules?
Were the rules good?
Will the rules be ignored, rather good or bad?

Phil Masters said...

Good question about protocol - except that the protocols which the Met are following at the moment don't seem to be very clear. The rules about armed police and so on used to be fairly explicit, but so far as I can make out, they've changed them at least once recently, to deal with the threat or actuality of suicide bombings, without necessarily telling anyone much.

Which is part of the problem, of course. But yes, this may be the time to stand back a minute and see if the inquiry turns into a can of worms or a whitewash. Always see what your metaphors are before you scattergun the swamp full of alligators.

Andrew Rilstone said...

Up to a point. In the 1970s, no-one had heard of Osama Bin Laden, but London was regularly blown up by that nice Gerry Adams. At the time Neil and Maggie kept telling us that this had NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH POLITICS, and that it was just BAD IRISH PEOPLE who liked blowing people up for the sake of it, and blaming it on Cromwell and William III. Ken Livingstone, who at that time was in charge of London, kept saying "No, actually, they are going to carry on bombing us until we address the situation in Ireland which is let's face it a bit of a mess." The idea of treason had not been thought of in those days, so Maggie abolished him, and then Tony made him mayor and he spent the rest of his life telling people not to pull the chain when they did a wee. Meanwhile, John sat down with Gerry and had a jolly good friday agreement, since when the IRA have blown up hardly anyone. The point being that, during the 70s, Osama wasn't trying to blow up London, and now he is, so somewhere along the line I can't help thinking that we must have done something to annoy him.

You are quite right, of course, that having got into this mess -- and Ken is probably right to say that it's a mess which we've been making since the end of the first world war -- saying to Osama "Okay, we'll change our policy towards Iran" wouldn't make any difference.

Gavin Burrows said...

Charles Filson Said:

It's ever so slightly possible that the Irish stopped bombing when they had something better to spend their paychecks at the pub. (to be glib)

You're confusing the Republic of Ireland with Northern Ireland, which continues to be one of the poorest areas in the UK.

Northern Ireland was hived off from the rest of the island largely because of the industries there, such as shipbuilding. Nowadays no-one makes ships in the UK and those areas aren't worth an economic dime.

Around that time the UK Gov started holding talks which acknowledged the existence of the Irish Sea. Co-incidence?

Gavin Burrows said...

I'm currently being reufally amused by the Government's current line that the Judiciary mustn't interfere with their plans for secret courts, because they're the elected government who look all smart and nice on the telly and the Judges are a bunch of old guys who wear weird wigs and talk about quaint yesterday stuff like the presumption of innocence.

Just checking, but this is the same Government who, almost immediately on gaining power, handed over control of interest rates to the Bank of England, because this sort of thing is best left to the sober-headed professionals and taken out the hands of short-term political expediency?