April 08, 2008

If backpack bombs actually looked like bombs, then they'd be useless…

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/staffordshire/7336740.stm

A BBC radio reporter was held to the ground and searched by police under the Terrorism Act after his transmitter equipment was mistaken for a bomb.

I have several issues with this. Firstly, the equipment apparently looks like this:

Radio transmitter backpack

Admittedly, as well as a radio transmitter, I will accept that this could look like a bomb, but that is precisely the problem: backpack bombs look like backpacks; if they looked like bombs then the bombers would never be able to get near their target...

Secondly, it is worth pointing out the sentence Mr Khan's backpack contained equipment that is regularly used to allow reporters to broadcast from locations around the city centre. Did you notice the important word? It's "regularly". This equipment is regularly used around the city. It is not a rare occurrence for this equipment to be chosen; it is used regularly.

Thirdly, apparently Police were told an "Arabic-looking man was acting suspiciously" outside a shopping centre. Surely all that matters was that a man was acting suspiciously; or even "someone" was acting suspiciously. What difference does it make if he looks like an Arab or not? Have people forgotten that just the other decade stupid people would have been informing the police of "green-clad suspicious people with shamrocks" or some other appropriate stupid stereotype. "Arab" does not equal "terrorist", and "terrorist" does not equal "Arab"; any Arab terrorists just happen to be Arabs and terrorists for completely separate reasons.

Finally, Chief Superintendent Jane Sawyers said I am pleased with the positive and professional way the officers dealt with the incident. I'm sorry! Forcing a professional radio reporter to the ground because some people decide to make bombs that, apparently, resemble radio transmitting equipment is now considered professional!? What's wrong with "We fucked up, big time" or "Epic Fail", or "Keeping the peace; we're doing it wrong"?

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. In the 70s someone with an Irish accent was likely to get a second glance. Today, someone with a dark complexion (possibly also could be described as looking Eastern Mediterranean or Arabic) is likely to get a second glance, particularly if they’re wearing a backpack.
    If the police had received a report about a suspicious character and not followed it up, and there had been an incident…
    ”...presented with this limited information local officers immediately responded and positively acted to ensure everyone’s safety…”

    Fact of current life. Give it 20 years and it’ll be another group of people.
    And I speak as someone who is constantly asked if I’m Greek, Iranian etc.

    08 Apr 2008, 19:44

  2. positively acted to ensure everyone’s safety

    I knew there was another quotation to cover…

    I would contest the positivity of forcing an ultimately innocent man to the ground. It would make much more sense to me to approach him calmly and try to discuss the matter in a civilized manner. If he’s innocent (as he was) he’d likely say “Certainly Officer. See? Radio journalism equipment”, but if he’s actually a bomber then the calm environment might keep him at ease thinking he may be able to talk himself out of it.

    On the other hand, if they rush an innocent man the outcome is obvious, if they rush a guilty man then he may panic and detonate early.

    I know there will always be at least one arbitrary grouping of people that will be picked on, but what I’m more concerned about is the truly reprehensible manner in which they tried to deal with the “suspicious person”. Innocent Until Proven Guilty should not be limited to Courts…

    08 Apr 2008, 19:58

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