I’m amazed at the low standards to which the Metropolitan Police are being held, and the degree to which commentators are choosing to defer to police ‘fear’ or ‘bravery’ in examining the death of Jean Charles De Menezes, when the inquest jury determined their account was based on incompetence and lies. Why should it matter that suicide bombers had finally acted against London? I expect the police to behave in the same, cool, evidence-based manner at all times because that’s what they’re trained to do. I don’t expect CO19 officers to run into a tube station, with little information, garbled commands, and to kill innocent people with no warning and no chance to identify themselves ever. Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone would have you believe:
Cressida Dick (w)as the “most talented” officer he worked with.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Livingstone said the police officers made mistakes because of the “unbelievable” pressure they were under.
Ms Dick, who was in command of the operation and subsequently promoted, has “commissioner potential” he says.
Now ‘pressure’ is an excuse to write off a human life. Can someone tell me how Dick is ‘commissioner potential’ when she changed her orders multiple times, allowed De Menezes onto the train, and never properly articulated what ‘stop(ping)’ him meant? And is ‘pressure’ a justifiable excuse for surveillance officer ‘Frank’ to have made a spotty initial identification of De Menezes as ‘European’ (which his features were), having been distracted by a call of nature, but to then to change his mind to being unsure if he was failed suicide bomber Hussain Osman, despite there being no resemblance whatsoever? For a lay person, terrified of the potential suicide bombing wave perhaps, but a trained surveillance officer?
Was it fear, pressure or bravery which allowed the surveillance team on the train to either misidentify De Menezes as Osman or fail to inform C2 and C12 otherwise, when other passengers on the train confirm they had plenty of time to determine De Menezes clearly wasn’t dark-skinned in appearance (approx 5 mins in):
And what about the surveillance officer on the bus whose positive identification of De Menezes as Osman legitimised C2 to open fire when he eventually arrived? Could fear or pressure have caused him not to notice that De Menezes was Caucasian (which Osman was not)?
“I heard over the radio that there was a surveillance officer on the bus and I heard them say ‘this was definitely our man’.”
When asked what else he heard as he pursued the bus in a silver Mercedes with two other firearms officers, he said: “I heard over the radio that he was nervous (he wasn’t), acting strangely (he wasn’t) and that he was standing up in the stairs acting very twitchy (he wasn’t).”
C2 said it was the greatest threat he had faced during 17 years as a specialist firearms officer.
He said: “I have been in the firearms unit for a number of years and we have never faced a threat like that.
“It occurred to me that it was very likely, sooner or later, that we were going to have to confront these people and, if it all went wrong, we were aware the consequences were huge.
“It did occur to me that I might not get home if it all went wrong.”
Or maybe he never said it at all:
One of the firearms officers told the jury he heard surveillance officers positively identify the suspect over the radio. The surveillance officer in question contradicted this in court.
And then there’s the above video, which reports that C2 said his actual reason for opening fire was De Menezes getting up from his seat (he did) and approaching him in a threatening manner (he didn’t). Maybe it was fear or pressure which caused him to shoot him anyway, but if that’s true, wouldn’t that have justified him shooting pretty much anyone? Is that what we’re really saying, that a highly trained police officer should be able to justify trigger-happiness through ‘fear’, ‘pressure’ or ‘bravery’ (via the spin of their colleagues)? And if, as the jury maintains, he did lie about De Menezes’ movements (and bear in mind with then-Commissioner Sir Ian Blair’s deliberate obstruction of the IPCC from investigating immediately all participants in the killing had time to confer and indeed change evidence) doesn’t that mean he shot him for no reason? Can that be justified by the context in which they were operating? Hugh Muir says:
Let’s look at what the judge decided. He said no reasonable person having heard the evidence could conclude that what occurred was murder. That’s surely right. Whatever happened underground at Stockwell, there was no malice aforethought. It was a horrible and scary time. Those of us who live in the capital well remember it. People had died on 7/7 and had been maimed in the most horrible circumstances and the talk was of an immediate repetition, of young men queuing up to martyr themselves. The context is important.
I don’t agree. If I were let loose with a gun the context would be everything, yet these were supposedly highly trained firearms officers. They should and must be held to the highest possible standards at all times. When does gung ho become malice? When do unchallenged racism and trigger-happiness become murder or manslaughter? When does arriving inexplicably late mean you rely on more than a single, uncorroborated (and by then dated) confirmation of the subject’s identity before opening fire? Isn’t malice aforethought an execution without any reason? Yesterday afternoon however the Independent Police Complaints Commission and Crown Prosecution indicated their level of interest in pursuing charges of perjury against the officers:
The Independent Police Complaints Commission said Ms Wistrich’s call for a perjury inquiry was “wrong”.
The Crown Prosecution Service said it had not received any referrals in relation to perjury charges.
A spokesman for the police watchdog said: “It is wrong to construe that there has been possible perjury from the findings of the jury because they were asked to decide on the balance of probability.
“The jury could not indicate whether they believed certain witnesses were mistaken or lied.”
Erm they answered the Coroner’s question – did C12 issue an ‘armed police’ warning? No. Did De Menezes stand up when confronted with the kill team? Yes. Did he approach them in any way? No. All the police said all three statements were true, the witnesses said otherwise and the jury agreed. No perjury? Really?
“Noone set out that day to kill an innocent man,” said Sir Paul Stephenson.
Yet by the end of the day Jean Charles De Menezes had been killed, the Metropolitan Police had initiated a cover-up of the truth and started smearing his name to justify their actions. Cowardice, incompetence or something more?