July 25, 2005

British Police Refuse to Apologize For Death, Defend "Shoot to Kill" Policy

"It wasn't just a random event, and the most important thing to recognize is that it is still happening out there ... Somebody else could be shot." - London Police Commisioner Sir Ian Blair, in an interview with Sky News.

The New York Times is reporting on a statement issued by London's Police Commissioner in which he defended the "shoot to kill" policy he instituted following the bombings on July 7. Speaking of the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, a man who was shot to death on the Tube, London's subway system, last week by plain-clothes police men and later discovered not to have been related in any way to terrorism, Sir Ian insisted, "There is nothing gratuitous here in what is going on." Excuse me?! Nothing gratuituous? The man was frightened by his pursuers who, let us recall, were not in police uniform, tripped hurring on to the train, and was subsequently pinned to the ground and shot five times in the head. Gratuitous? Of course not. The most serious charge that can be made against Mr. Menezes is that he was wearing something similar in appearance to a detonator belt used by suicide bombers and, being frightened, did not immediately obey orders when his pursuers identified themselves as police officers. Now he is dead. Unnecessarily. That's gratuitous, and it's indefensible. If I was in London now I can tell you I would probably be more afraid of police than of terrorists, and that is a horrible situation for all. The police need to work with the people who - let me remind them - actually want the police to succeed in capturing terrorists, rather than becoming enemies of the populace and engaging in random acts of violence then justifying them by some nonsense claims about showing the terrorists we are serious. It is time for the British police to apologize and more. It is time for them to demonstrate to the family of Mr. Menesez that they take this death and their culpabilty in the matter seriously, and work to ensure that the incident is not repeated. This is in stark opposition to Sir Ian's words, as he stoicly accepts the possibility of more gratuitous deaths due to police action. The British people are just beginning to react to the matter. Their reaction had better become stronger before more of them die.

Posted by Kenny at July 25, 2005 7:12 PM
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Comments

Kenny, I tend to agree with you comments above. But, to put the record straight, Sir Ian Blair has now "said the death of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube, after he was wrongly thought to be a bomber, was a "dreadful mistake". ... Prime Minister Tony Blair [no relation] has said he is "desperately sorry" for the death" (from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4719551.stm). So the title "Police Refuse to Apologize" is too strong in the circumstances.

Posted by: Peter Kirk at July 26, 2005 6:14 PM

Regrets are not apologies. As I quoted above, Sir Ian also stated that there was "nothing gratuitous" in the behavior of the police. An apology involves acknowledging wrongdoing, which the police have not. The Prime Minister's response is, however, somewhat better.

Posted by: Kenny at July 26, 2005 7:01 PM

Yes, a formal apology without a 'yes, but...' would be appropriate.

Posted by: John at July 27, 2005 4:22 PM

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