Sunday, December 14, 2008

De Menezes family wants commanding officer sacked.

The fact that the family of Jean Charles de Menezes want someone fired over the death of their son is perfectly understandable and doesn't necessarily mean that they are right.

They seek some kind of closure over what they, rightly, view as a catastrophic waste of an innocent life.

And one can have sympathy for the officers who, acting on flawed information, wrongly gunned down an innocent man shortly after four terrorists attempted to blow themselves up on London's underground shortly after 7-7.

However, the police reaction - both to the threat posed by de Menezes and the subsequent cover up in which the police dissembled to an inquiry into the incident - left an awful lot to be desired.

However, the thing that has shocked me more than anything else about the police entering a tube train and, without warning, shooting seven bullets into the head and shoulders of an innocent man has been the utter lack of remorse and the insistence that, sorry as they are about this, it might very well happen again.

Cressida Dick, the woman who was in charge of the botched de Menezes operation, has said as much in public:

Facing cross-examination about the shooting for the first time, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick admitted: "I am afraid that I do believe that this or something like this could happen again".

It's hard to take the police apology seriously when there is this cavalier attitude to the fact that another member of the public might be similarly gunned down and the inference remains that we all better get used to it.

Had the police operation been properly handled, as yesterday's inquiry clearly stated, then there is no way Jean Charles de Menezes would ever have been shot. Rather he would have been stopped outside his apartment building and searched long before he ever entered a tube station, when his death became inevitable.

The family of de Menezes are now calling for Cressida Dick to be fired and are putting pressure on Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, to replace Dick.

Pressure mounted on Ms Dick when former Metropolitan police commander Brian Paddick revealed that the controversial police rules to deal with a suspected suicide bomber, known as Operation Kratos, were breached on the day of the shooting. His comments came after a jury returned an open verdict into the shooting and cast doubt on the police version of events and the Met's competency on the day.

"The policy says that if the firearms officers have any doubt that the suspect is a suicide bomber, they should shout a warning and react to how the suspect responds," he said. "But if there is no doubt, then you can fire a critical shot without warning. The evidence is that they didn't shout a warning. Yet we have a surveillance officer saying he didn't get a proper look at Jean Charles when he left the flat and surveillance officers with varying degrees of certainty as to whether it was [terror suspect] Hussain Osman or not. There was ambiguity and no code word."

In other words, there was so much confusion that the officers should not have been sure. So they should have shouted a warning. The case for unlawful killing would have been greatly strengthened by their failure to do so. The two officers who fired the fatal shots told the inquest that they did shout a warning, although none of the 17 civilian witnesses on the train heard them do so. On Friday, the De Menezes inquest said that it did not believe police had given Mr De Menezes the warning that would have saved his life. With doubt surrounding the identification of the suspect, the police would have been in breach of their own policy if no warning had been given, which the jury believes to be the case.

I fully accept that the atmosphere in London after the second failed attempt to kill Londoners on the tube was extremely tense, however one cannot admit that a dreadful mistake was made and then blithely say that such an incident may very well happen again and that we all better get used to it. It is impossible to hold such an attitude and to claim that lessons have been learned.

Miss Dick was in charge of a hideously botched operation in which an innocent man died. It is perfectly understandable that the family have identified her as the person who has to go. There has been much talk about charging the officers who fired the fatal shots but I would regard that as grossly unfair. By the time they entered the tube station they believed, because of failures made long before de Menezes ever arrived at that location, that a suicide bomber was about to detonate himself on the underground. Their options were extremely limited.

However, the catastrophic decisions made before the police arrived at that point were made under the command of Cressida Dick.

The family's lawyer, Gareth Peirce, said that the family had identified 25 "serious and catastrophic" errors committed by Ms Dick. Further doubt was cast on her role by senior Met sources. One said: "She is not commissioner material at all. Those who know her well describe her as indecisive."

The jury was specifically asked: "[Did] a failure to conclude, at the time, that surveillance officers should still be used to carry out the stop of Mr De Menezes at Stockwell station even after it was reported that specialist firearms officers could perform the stop [contribute to the death of Mr De Menezes]. They answered, "Yes."

From the minute de Menezes was shot the police have closed ranks and done everything in their power to deflect the blame away from themselves and towards others.

The way that one makes amends is by admitting error and doing all in one's power to make sure such an incident is never repeated. Cressida Dick not only made "catastrophic errors" but she is blithely stating that they might very well be repeated.

That hardly inspires public confidence in her, and the de Menezes family will have much support as they seek to make her pay, not simply for horrific set of circumstances which led to the death of Jean Charles, but for the attitude she has displayed since, which sounds about as far away from regret as one could imagine.

Click title for full article.


Ingrid said...

It just all seemed like an execution to me..whatever you think you might be defending..if killing was never an option, you'd be amazed at the ways you can solve even dangerous issues and situations..


Kel said...

It was an execution Ingrid. And it was one made necessary because of incompetence.