Saturday, July 23, 2005

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?


At 4:50 PM, Blogger Lost said...

Maybe not lauaghably but possibly just a little naive. You know they aren't going to confirm special forces because "that would be giving too much confidential information that could hurt security". At this point, after two bombings, getting anything confirmed or denied is going to be incredibly difficult. I don't envy the journalists looking to write honest and information filled stories.

At 7:08 PM, Blogger zaphod said...

I am slightly lost. Where did special forces come in ?

At 8:34 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

The manner of the shooting has led to speculation that it wasn't done by police officers. Scotland Yard have tonight denied this.

I think another problem is that some of the gun-toting police have been dressed in T shirts, jeans, trainers and baseball caps. I think I'd run if someone dressed like that on a London street pointed a gun at me.

At 8:39 PM, Anonymous Taters said...

Don't know about the military, the Met are no slouches at assassinating the peasants, f'rinstance poor old Harry Stanley. And my mate Wilson got his dream job 'cos Stephen Waldorf was indisposed that week. Hey ho.

At 8:21 AM, Blogger dwynwen said...

I see many difficulties. There is a suggestion that the police having to make 'split second' decision mitigates in some way (even though they followed him for ages).

Very few people seem to want to acknowledge that the victim was also in a position of making a 'split second decision', and I know that had I been in his place then my behaviour would very likely have been totally irrational too.

I do not condone terrorism, but from the start knew that shooting him was unnecessary. The eye witness reports made that clear.


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