The De Menezes Killing
A little over two years ago I blogged about the Jean Charles De Menezes shooting by the Metropolitan Police (the Met) in the London underground. The Met believed, mistakenly, that De Menezes was a terrorist and shot him in the head in a crowded subway train. Well now it turns out that a court has ruled that the De Menezes shooting was not in policy.
The Metropolitan police was today found guilty of a catastrophic series of errors during the operation that led to firearms officers shooting Jean Charles de Menezes dead on the London underground.
De Menezes was shot seven times in the head by police who mistook him for one of four men who had failed to detonate bombs on the capital’s transport system the previous day, the court heard during the four-week trial.
The prosecution alleged that the police operation to follow and stop the 27-year-old – who lived in the same south London block of flats as the terror suspect Hussein Osman – was carried out “so badly that the public were needlessly put at risk”.
One rather disturbing part of the verdict is that apparently nobody really was to blame though. The head of the Met, Sir Ian Blair was not in anyway responsible. The commander of the operation was not responsible for getting a many killed, she was promoted. It isn’t clear that the officer who was supposed to be watching for when De Menezes was leaving and going to the bathroom was responsible for failure to do his job. Apparently the police screwed up by not having any single officer anywhere involved in the operation screwing up. It was wrong to shoot De Menezes in the head multiple times, but nobody really made a mistake. Try to figure that one out.
This article in the Telegraph raises similar issues.
So how did the mistakes happen? The verdict blamed “the organisation” and “managerial failures”. Yet no individual manager was deemed responsible for any managerial failure, or for any failure of the organisation.
How any such failures could have happened without some individual making an error, either at the level of policy, or at the level of an individual decision, is beyond me. But I’m in good company: the prosecution, the judge and the jury couldn’t resolve that condundrum either.
The article then goes off the rails after that though,
The prosecution seems to have been the consequence of a vague desire to ensure that the “same thing does not happen again”. Its most likely effect, however, is that something much worse will.
When applied to the police and the other emergency services, health and safety legislation induces paralysis. It does not make officers do the right thing. It makes them do nothing, because you cannot be prosecuted for doing nothing.
I’m sorry, but we are giving certain agents of the state broad powers and arming them and then sending them out with instructions to shoot people if necessary. I’d like to make sure that, as an innocent bystander, I don’t get shot, my wife doesn’t get shot, and so on. Is that really too much to ask? Given that we are, once again, arming these agents, giving them broad powers to detain, arrest and shoot people, asking them to perform at a high standard seems like a reasonable request.
In the case of dealing with terrorism, the consequences of officers doing nothing could be horrendous.
Yes, it could very well be horrendous. It also could very well be part of the cost of living in a free society. Pushed to its extremes this is the kind of thinking that leads to the nanny state mentality. We must protect people from not only the bad guys, but themselves as well. After all, unbridled excesses in eating has been claimed to lead to 400,000 premature deaths due to obesity.1
1Not really, but it sure does sound horrendous; horrendous enough that the government should step in and do something about it.