Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Shoot-to-kill a long-term policy?

Today, the Associate of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have announced that there is no need to change their policies over the police's right to shoot to kill a suspected suicide bomber.

Excuse me? They think that the comedy of errors that was the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes was the right way to go about defending our streets? I mean seriously, if it was acceptable to kill Menezes on the 'intelligence' that was possessed by the Met at the time of his killing, then just about anyone should fear for their life doing just about anything, just about anywhere in London. Take for example the fact that we got our advice on what to do with potential suicide bombers from the Israeli's (hardly the sanest bunch when it comes to anti-terrorism) and then we actually decided to go one step further by eliminating the need for a police marksman to be able to see a suicide belt before he opens fire. This means that we possess a more extreme anti-suicide bomber policy than the Israelis do, despite the fact that they have a reputation for dealing rather harshly with terrorists and the fact that suicide bombers are much more of a real threat in Jerusalem than they are in London.

But apparently the policy is still good one, not over the top and reactionary in the slightest. Intelligence will be gathered on suspected terrorists, and shoot to kill will still only be used as a last resort. The problem with the Menezes shooting though was that it turned from an intelligence gathering exercise to a live encounter in a very short space of time. There was simply not enough time to put together enough information on the situation and as such mistakes were made. The Met seems to be using this as a defence, they didn't know radio's didn't work, they relied on evidence from an eye-witness, but in fact it is a harsh criticism - no police operation should take place on hearsay or without the right preparation, and the fact that it did resulted in the death of an innocent man. This should be an absolute catastrophe for the Met, but instead ACOP has backed them up and stood by their actions.

We now have, active in this country right as we speak, the right for the police to kill any 'suspected terrorist' and not held be responsible for their death, supposedly in order to save lives. Where here is innocent until proven guilty, where is the concept of a thousand guilty free rather than one innocent imprisoned? Supporters of Operation Kratos say that a few innocent deaths are acceptable in preventing the deaths of many more, well at the same time, protecting the civil rights and liberties of our country are worth a high price too and people should not have to feel afraid to leave their homes because of the possible threat posed by their own police force.

We will never actually stop suicide bombings, in just the same way we will never stop murder, rape or paedophilia. Introducing totalitarian new laws to try and stop suicide bombings hopefully will never need to be used, but at the same time, they will cause fear, uncertainty and doubt amongst each and every person who carries a rucksack, runs for a train, or avoids the police. We say the terrorists will not destroy our way of life, yet the repercussions of their actions will cause more chaos in the long run than their initial actions ever could. Until we convince the government and the police of this, then as far as I'm concerned we are losing the war, not matter what they say.


Anonymous said...

It's effing frightening how little fuss has been kicked up by politicians and the media about this. Contrast with the Stalker Inquiry of the early 80s.

Tim said...

You said "they will cause fear, uncertainty and doubt amongst each and every person who carries a rucksack, runs for a train, or avoids the police."

I may be wrong but I do not think that de Menezes did any of these, but the Met deliberately misled us after the incident that he did - and it still has stuck.

The ACPO statement seems more like the police closing ranks to protect their own in the face of likely criminal charges, rather than a measured response to operational failure.

Gavin ayling said...

There can be no doubt that De Menezes case is a travesty and that the police routinely abuse their powers under terrorism legislation, not least using it against non-terrorists... But don't we want to still allow the police to intervene if in the unlikely event they happened to be able to stop a suicide bomber?

Any individual misuse of police power should be reigned in, but I cannot tolerate the idea of police standing (or more likely running) from a situation where they could have stopped a bomber just because they feared the repercussions of intervention.