Friday, October 3, 2008

It Happens in England too

CNN reports on the resignation of UK's top police officer, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair.

Two weeks after the bombings, four bombers tried but failed to carry out similar attacks on London's transport system, putting the city and country even more on edge. Officers staking out a suspect's home in south London saw and followed Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, wrongly believing he was a suspect.

The officers trailed de Menezes as he traveled on a bus and into a subway station, where they chased him and shot him dead.

Immediately the Blue Wall of Silence went up, or in this case it was the old Blue Wall of Coverup. Blair announced that the suspect had refused to stop when the officers ordered him to. This turned out to be false. Last December police anti-terror chief, Andy Hayman, resigned claiming that he was responsible for not informing his superiors, but it looks like that wasn't enough to protect his boss. Blair still claims he wasn't given the whole story until the following day.

What do you think about the responsibility of officers for the actions of their men? In a case like this, should the trigger-happy foot soldier be let off with a reprimand and his bosses fired? Or, is it right to fire these guys for trying to coverup what was a legitimate mistake?

Leave a comment if you like.


  1. Mike,

    I think the law enforcement officers who do the shooting should be tried for murder. And the superiors that cover it up should be tried for aiding and abetting after the fact. There has to be harsh penalties for the breach of the public trust.

    Also, consider this in your gun control plan; if you take away the guns from everyone....won't only the cops and the crooks have guns?
    Some days it's hard to tell them apart.

    Now I think the vast majority of law enforcement folks are honest and upright, but I don't want to leave my safety to only them.

  2. if the trigger-happy foot soldiers get let off with a reprimand and a slap on the wrist, then their bosses need to be fired for allowing that to happen. those bosses' replacements should realize they have a responsibility to ensure said trigger-happy foot soldiers get some actual punishment post haste.

    if the boots on the ground understand that they are accountable for every bullet they fire, every taser they pull the trigger on, every pepper spray can they use, and that this responsibility and the consequences for failing it will be a public matter, then the bosses will have done their job properly and need not be fired.

    the public trust should involve every level on the chain of command, but it should most closely and firmly involve those individual people who directly interact with the public and whose actions stand to directly uphold or violate that trust. that's the beat cops, the boots on the ground. they must be held responsible; if they are not, then those who should have and didn't must also be held responsible, for failing to supervise and discipline their subordinates.

    if the guy at the bottom of the totem pole can get away with a slap on the wrist for what amounts to negligent manslaughter even at best, then we have a police state indeed, and it won't matter which bosses get fired. the foot soldiers will just get some other boss, why should they care? the purpose of firing the bosses is and must be to ensure that somebody does the job of controlling those foot soldiers and administering appropriate punishment for unacceptable conduct.

  3. I dpm't think the 'resignation' of Blair has much/anything to do with the De Menenzes shooting. It's basically a turf war between the (Conservative) Mayor and the Labour Governmemt.

    I remember the day of the shooting well though. It took place on a Northern Line platform at Stockwell underground (subway to you). De Menenzes was seated in a carriage at the time (and therefore not running away). I'm told his head was literally blown off. I was in court that day near London Bridge further up the Northern Line. I finished early and decided to go home - back down the Northern Line. I got 3 stops down to Kennington and then trains just stopped - reason unexplained - and everyone was ordered out. Public transport basically ground to a halt so I decided to walk home given the lack of alternatives - a very walk but I do walking. When I eventually reached Stockwell there was the biggest police cordon I have ever seen and I had to take a substantial detour just to get round it. I eventually got ho,e and only later found out what had happened. A terribl event. There is still a highly unofficial but undisturbed shrine to De menenzes at Stockwell station.

  4. Bob, I think you're quite right about charging the cop shooters with murder, especially considering White Rabbit's near first-hand report on the case. Interesting too what he said about the firings (resignations) being totally political.