Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why I Don't Feel Sympathy

I am quite astonished by the way in which shooters C12 and C2, who shot Jean Charles De Menezes are still being protected by the establishment, be that the BBC which writes uncritically of the police and the marksmen in particular, or former policemen, quick to close ranks:
I don't know the identity of all the firearms officers involved at the tragic scene of the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, but I certainly know the identity of one. I am told that I would know the others, but that is enough for me. Of one thing I am certain: that to a man they are decent, right-thinking men who are devastated by the whole issue. Their torment continues with no end in sight.
And this is where the spin comes in. Noone has said that C12 or C2 aren't decent human beings at heart, that they haven't been crushed by their involvement in one of the darkest moments in the history of the Metropolitan Police. But that doesn't mean that their shooting of a fundamentally innocent man was lawful, nor that they shouldn't be punished for it. Decent people do bad things for a variety of reasons, which are sometimes are adequate defences, but shooting a man 7 times in the head with no warning and without reason isn't one of them. C12 said he shouted 'armed police' - 17 witnesses disagreed and so did the jury at the De Menezes inquest trial. C2 said he heard a surveillance officer on the bus De Menezes travelled to Stockwell tube station on, positively identifying him as failed suicide bomber Hussain Osman. The surveillance officer in question denied this in court. He also said he made the choice to open fire because he approached him in a threatening manner. The jury's response to the Coroner's questions implied they believed he lied too.

What we had was a gung ho team of Metropolitan Police shooters, trigger happy and nervy from arriving inexplicably late to stop the man being surveilled from entering the tube network. Where any truly right minded individual would expect a police officer, even under the pressure they were under the day after the failed suicide bombings, to behave in a cool, rational manner, reacting to evidence rather than presumption, they both went straight onto the train and blew Jean Charles De Menezes away for no reason. I feel no sympathy for them at all.
As for the officers involved, they are victims too, of crushing pressures. Were we asking too much of them? What will they do if a similar situation occurs again? Can we afford to dilute their resolve? They deserve and need our support as well our sympathy. Mark my words, if this pressured and scrutinised task becomes any harder, these volunteer officers may begin to fade away.
Sorry? How are they victims when they colluded in the smearing of an innocent man for three years? He didn't behave in a threatening manner, he wasn't acting suspiciously beforehand and looked nothing like Osman. He wasn't wearing clothes out of keeping with the season, nor did he leap the barriers at the station and resist arrest, all of which have been claimed by those involved. Can such behaviour be justified through 'crushing pressure'? What if it were your friend, your brother, your boyfriend, your husband? It might as well have been. The marksmen haven't been overscrutinised since the killing - quite the opposite. They are being held, at least in some quarters if not legal ones, to account for not doing their jobs adequately. Former Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick gave testimony that they even breached Operation Kratos (the Met's shoot-to-kill policy):

"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.
They didn't, which even under Operation Kratos, makes this an unlawful killing. But the inquest coroner Sir Michael Wright prevented the jury from issuing such a verdict. Although Roger Gray and other former and current police officers might wish otherwise, it does mean justice hasn't been done and far from feeling sympathy for C12 and C2, we should expect them (not alone, I'll grant) to face justice for their actions.

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