Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bobbies Balls Up

This story just runs and runs.

Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, was shot dead in error by police at Stockwell Tube station as part of the inquiry into attempted bomb attacks. He was later found not to be connected to the incidents.

Met Police Chief Sir Ian Blair has apologised to the family and warned that more innocent people might be killed in the fight against terrorism.”

Not withstanding the human tragedy involved in the death of an innocent bystander during the hysteria surrounding the London bombings, there are serious implications to be considered regarding the way Britain is policed.

Many people, particularly tourists who don't know any better, still labour under the misapprehension that British police do not carry guns. This hasn't been true for many years – but to get the public to believe this is very difficult. Like an urban myth that just won't go away, John Charles murder continues to haunt the psyche of the public and he conscience of most right-thinking police officers.

Sir Ian Blair's apology – coupled with the warning that others will be killed in similar circumstances- is as obscene as it is disingenuous.

Forgetting the role of the senior officers in charge on the day and the media hysteria that helped to set the tone for this tragedy – there really can be no excuse for the officers who actually pulled the trigger. Whilst not being able to condone their action, it is a humane reaction to feel some sympathy for the officers and their families. There sympathy stops. They must accept their guilt for the tragic events that lead to this needless and avoidable death.

The bottom line is they made a terrible mistake. I'm sure they know that now. By admitting their guilt and so pleading to a charge of manslaughter, they can bring some kind of closure to this tragedy. By “stalling” with public enquiries and threats of “strikes” by colleagues, the police in general and the officers in particular bring nothing but discredit on themselves and the force at large.

No-one should any longer be under any illusion – British police carry guns and they will use them. What should be avoided is the public perception that they are a bunch of trigger-happy amigos who, if everything goes belly-up, will struggle violently to avoid any responsibility for their actions.

This must not be allowed.

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