“Maybe we should have discussed it but I think some things we keep secret about because if people know exactly what we are doing they can take action to stop it…”
So said former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Stevens, about the introduction of the ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy in relation to terrorists by the Met…
… in January 2002.
When pressed as to whether the Government were informed about the introduction of this policy, Stevens went on to comment:
“In terms of what the operational decisions were, yes indeed.”
“Politicians, of course they know and these things are discussed because we have to find the right ways of dealing with them.”
Although neither the Metropolitian Police Authority or Parliament were informed of this ‘change in tactics’.
Downing Street, however, takes a rather different position:
“Our position remains the same. This is an operational matter and this is a matter for the police to decide.”
“Ministers can be informed about such operational matters, but are not consulted as such. We have no record of his being informed and he [Tony Blair] cannot recall being informed.”
So what the fuck actually went on here? Are we to believe that the little matter of the Metropolitan Police adopting a ‘shoot to kill’ policy is the kind of thing that you simply mention to a Minister in passing?
Perhaps Stevens bumped into Tony at a reception and the conversation went something like this:
Stevens: “Oh, while you’re here, just thought I’d mention that we’ve decided we’re going to shoot to kill when it comes to suspected terrorists”
Blair: “Sure, alright then – just mention it to David [Blunkett] when you see him. Must dash. Got to catch up with Alistair before he leaves…”
Sorry, but there is rather more to this than a mere ‘operational matter’ – operational matters are things like how many coppers you have working the night shift not whether your officers are going to be authorised to shoot people in the fucking head – eleven times, and the best that the Government can come up in response to this is that it can’t remember whether it was told and, anyway, its an operational matter.
If, by an remote chance, Blair & Blunkett weren’t told about this shift in policy then they damn well should have been – as should Parliament and the Metropolitan Police Authority – to then turn around and say:
“I think some things we keep secret about because if people know exactly what we are doing they can take action to stop it”
… demostrates a complete and utter contempt for notions of accountability and the increasingly quaint idea that the Police are there to serve the public.
Yes, there would no doubt have been some hard questions asked had the Police revealed its change in tactics but given the issue at stake, I suspect the wider public would have accepted such a policy subject to periodic review and an acceptable level of safeguards as to its use, instead of which it get adopted on the quiet and in the complete absence of any independent scrutiny which the inevitable consequences that brings – the death of an innocent man on a tube train.
Normally, about now, I’d be inclined to call for a public inquiry, but what’s the point now that even these are no longer independent.
Take about muddying the waters – not only can the Government not remember being told by the Met that it had adopted a ‘shoot to kill’ policy but now, according to the Safety Elephant, such a policy doesn’t even exist – which is surely news to the familiy of Jean Charles de Menezes who have every good reason to believe the contrary.
Hence we get the following statement:
“The police in this country, like those across the world, had to wrestle with the problem of how to deal with suicide bombers in such circumstances, he said.
There were also other circumstances in which the police were authorised to use firearms to protect people and police officers, he added.
But to describe these things as shoot to kill policies is in my opinion completely wrong.”
People who follow the Safety Elephant’s usual modus operadi will recognise what’s going on here immediately – when the going get’s tough, the ‘tough’ reject any awkward statement out of hand in the mistaken belief that if they say it ain’t so then people will believe them.
To be fair, the Safety Elephant’s right on one count, it is absurd to compare the Menezes shooting to capital punishement…
… at least with capital punishment there was a judicial process and some effort made to establish the person taking the drop was actually guilty, for all that mistakes were sometimes made, which is much more than can be reasonably said of the two officers who peppered Menezes head with bullets without having the first fucking idea of who they were shooting.
As for his assertion that its wrong to describe the current policy as as being one of ‘shoot to kill’ – well perhaps he’d like to offer us an alternative description which he believes to be more acceptable description of a policy which recommends that suspected terrorists are shot repeatedly in the head – or perhaps not and I doubt I could stomach yet another American-style euphemism, some sort of bullshit about ‘shooting to defend’.
Clarke clear either doesn’t get it or refuses to get it – the problem is not that Police might find it necessary to shoot a terrorist in order to prevent them killing others – even allowing for concerns for civil liberties, the vast majority of people would consider that a rational transaction; take one live to preserve many others. However the public has a reasonable expectation that in exercising such a policy the Police make every possible effort to establish that when they do find it necessary to shoot someone, they actually know who the fuck they’re shooting at and that they’re shoot at them for good reason.
Its the fact that in the case of Jean Charles de Menezes, the police fucked up spectacularly at pretty much every stage of proceedings and then let a whole bunch of erroneous and misleading media stories spread unchecked, when they knew them to be untrue, because that kept the heat off them that’s the real problem here – which is something that’s surely not beyond even the capacity of the Home Secretary to grasp.
Unless the man’s a total fucking idiot.