Oops, Sorry, We Thought You Were A Terrorist
Sadly, what I wrote yesterday has proved all too prophetic.
It has just been announced that the man shot dead by police yesterday had no connection with the London bombings.
One reason I feared this might be the outcome was that at yesterday's press conference the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, said that any loss of life was deeply regretted. I wasn't sure he'd have stressed this so strongly if he had known that the dead man was one of the bombers. I suspected that, even at that early stage, he had an inkling that a terrible mistake had been made.
The reasons for shooting the man that the police have given are:
1. He emerged from properties that were under surveillance.
2. His behaviour and clothing were suspicious.
Part of the suspicious behaviour was that he didn't stop when asked to. But there must be thousands of petty criminals in London who would leg it if anyone pursued them. And not necessarily just criminals. Many young people might run for it if they thought they were being chased by a gang.
An ex-policeman just interviewed on the BBC said the shooting had all the hallmarks of military special forces. He couldn't believe that the police would not shout a warning and empty a firearm into someone who they already had pinned to the ground.
There is, of course, a history of secretly using the military in civilian roles, most notably in the miners' strike.
The implications of this tragedy are very serious. If suspicious clothing and behaviour (and, let's be honest, skin colour) are to be sufficient reason for police executions, then Londoners have more to fear than suicide bombers.
There will be many young Asians now who will think twice about wearing padded jackets or carrying a back-pack.
The other predictable consequence is that those of us who express concern will be accused of police-bashing and even as supporters of terrorism.
The police have an incredibly difficult task and have to make split-second decisions of a kind that are the stuff of nightmares. But they're not helped by secret and contentious advice about the circumstances in which they can shoot people.
What is needed now is openness about the policies and guidance and public debate about them. Plus an admission that special forces are being deployed, if that is the case. That's the least we can ask for in an open, free, democratic society. Or is that being laughably naive?