September 12, 2006

Met Police setting a bad example?

While the Metropolitan Police had tried to slip the news out quietly (leaving it until after the newspaper journalists had gone home this evening), it seems the promotion of Commander Cressida Dick to Assistant Commissioner has still caused a considerable stir.

Commander Dick was the officer in charge of the ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy adopted after the July 7th bombings, which resulted in the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, who officers assumed was a suicide bomber. His family have apparently – through a spokesperson – expressed their disgust at the news.

On the Metropolitan Police Authority’s website – where the news was announced – the following paragraph was included into a press release, indicating that the Authority knew the promotion would be controversial:

Clearly there are some sensitive and unprecedented circumstances involved. Candidates were chosen on the basis of their application and ability. The MPA would not prejudice an officer’s fair promotion prospects by making assumptions about future disciplinary action. Officers will not be posted into new posts until outstanding issues are resolved.

Jean Charles de MenezesBBC News Online already has the story as their second headline – Menezes Police Officer Promoted – suggesting that news organisations who decide to take a more explicit line on the issue will have plenty of material to work with.

There’s little that newspapers like more than slagging off the police, and I’m sure many papers will put the boot in tomorrow at what could be seen as a serious misjudgement. The Daily Mail inparticular has never forgiven the Met for letting off the killers of Stephen Lawrence, and has taken on the crusade of bringing about justice all on its own.

Personally I don’t think that giving an order of ‘shoot-to-kill’ – which subsequently resulted in an accidental death – is enough reason to end a police officer’s career, and it certainly isn’t the job of the press to judge whether she is guilty or not. It’s entirely possible that Commander Dick has unrivalled leadership skills – don’t expect the newspapers to mention her specialist training in hostage negotiation, for instance – that make her an asset to the Met.

Sadly much of the media will probably overlook her good qualities and use her as a scapegoat as part of the fractious relationship they have with the police. While the de Menezes family has a right to be angry and ask questions of the police’s actions, there’s a danger that they will throw the blame at everyone, and none of it will stick.


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  1. ‘shoot to kill’ policy adopted after July 7th

    I was told a number of years ago by an ex policeman that the policy is always shoot to kill, in firearms related incidents. This is so as to protect the public and police officers as much as possible. Or do you mean shoot to kill suspects whether they are thought to be armed or not?

    12 Sep 2006, 22:59

  2. Good point – I think the post July 7th change in policy may have been to shoot-to-kill via a head-shot rather than the chest as was previously the case, to reduce the chance of a suicide bomb being detonated. A pretty good policy so long as you correctly identify the suicide bomber.

    12 Sep 2006, 23:01

  3. A pretty good policy so long as you correctly identify the suicide bomber.

    Doesn’t this apply to any shoot to kill incidents?

    13 Sep 2006, 00:29

  4. Hamid Sirhan

    Chris

    I think the post July 7th change in policy may have been to shoot-to-kill via a head-shot rather than the chest as was previously the case, to reduce the chance of a suicide bomb being detonated. A pretty good policy so long as you correctly identify the suicide bomber.

    Forgive me for sounding stupid…. but you have a group of police who say that they clearly identified themselves before the apparent chase. Then you have them making a chase. If the guy was a suicide bomber, why would he not detonate his bomb? I mean he knows he has a bunch of people shouting (allegedly) “STOP, SPECIAL UNIT” (or whatever it is they shout), chasing him and following him with guns, why would he wait until someone’s shot him several times in the head?

    Doesn’t seem to make much sense? Surely if they had a shoot-to-kill policy, and they truly suspected he was a suicide bomber, then he would have been shot at first sight, instead of alerting him and thereby creating the risk that he would detonate the bomb immediately?

    Sadly much of the media will probably overlook her good qualities and use her as a scapegoat as part of the fractious relationship they have with the police. While the de Menezes family has a right to be angry and ask questions of the police’s actions, there’s a danger that they will throw the blame at everyone, and none of it will stick.

    She may have had good qualities. Her good qualities do not, apparently, include apologising immediately for mistaken policies. Or trying her best to punish Met culprits such as the shooter who has since gone on to be an “expert” involved in training other units. Instead she’s getting a promotion whilst the DeMenezes’ son is in his grave.

    Nice quote here by the way:

    I’m sick of people like the so-called human rights lawyers for the De Menezes family who keep crying foul for no reason

    Yes, they clearly have no reason. Your son gets chased by met officers for having lightly-tanned skin and wearing a jacket, then gets shot in the head several times, you should be happy if you get a lollipop and an “I’m the bravest girl in the world!” sticker. Human Rights legislation is very important and it’s exceedingly important in a case like this in order to prevent a national perversion of justice. It’s one thing to not go overboard and sack everyone left and right, it’s another thing to reward incompetence and elevate the stature of those who have made serious mistakes.

    13 Sep 2006, 07:40

  5. Hamid, I’m not sure your description of de Menezes’ death is quite correct. For instance, I don’t think it was suspected he was a suicide bomber until he headed for the tube, at which point it was assumed he was trying to replicate the July 7th attacks.

    She may have had good qualities. Her good qualities do not, apparently, include apologising immediately for mistaken policies.

    But it’s not the policy which was mistaken – it was the implementation. I’m not saying that Commander Dick didn’t make mistakes, but her promotion will not actually occur until the legal issues over Menezes are concluded. As such, I don’t see why it’s impossibile for Cmdr Dick to be worthy of promotion, which is what recent coverage has suggested.

    13 Sep 2006, 10:15

  6. Michael Sharpston

    It seems fairly hard to be believe that there was not a high-level attempt at cover-up after the error in the Menezes’ killing was eIvident. It also seems difficult to believe that Cmdr Cressida Dick, as the senior officer involved in the fiasco, was not to blame for at least part of that fiasco. Conversely, I am quite prepared to believe that the officers who did the actual killing were following credible orders they found reasonable from what they knew.

    30 Sep 2006, 23:42

  7. Richard head

    Hero to zero to hero. The chick that saved the MET became a murdering bitch that screwed up. “But hey, haven’t you hear? We got immunity.” Just your basic “death in police custody”. Also known as getting away with murder. There will be a reckoning. Just one crack in the dam is all it will take, providing enough of the public can snap out of denial.

    13 Nov 2006, 06:08


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