July 23, 2005

Slow Police Response Jeopardized Lives

London Metropolitan Police are now saying that the south Asian man wearing a heavy coat on a muggy warm day who ran from police into the Tube the day after botched suicide attacks, tripped and was shot in the head is not related to the recent rash of Islamic terrorism.

Via BBC News:

A Scotland Yard statement read: "We believe we now know the identity of the man shot at Stockwell Underground station by police on Friday 22nd July 2005, although he is still subject to formal identification.

"We are now satisfied that he was not connected with the incidents of Thursday 21st July 2005.

"For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets."

How should I respond?

You don't give children matches. You don't attempt to rewire your house without shutting off your electricity. And you certainly don't run from police when dressed suspiciously like a suicide bomber who attacked the same area the day before. Stupidity kills.

So does the unwillingness to follow established doctrine.

Operation Kratos, the operational plan and training of Metropolitan Police officers by the world's foremost experts on suicide bombers, failed yesterday. It did not fail because the man shot turned out to be an idiot rather than a suicide bomber. It failed because the man penetrated the perimeter and made it to the train before being shot. He never should have made it that far.

Commuter Mark Whitby captured the attention of the media yesterday with his dramatic recreation of events:

“As the man leapt on the train I looked at his face. He looked just like a cornered rat ... like a cornered fox, absolutely petrified.

“Then he tripped. One of the police officers was holding a black automatic pistol in his left hand. They held it down to him and unloaded five shots into him — bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.

“Five shots and he's dead. It was no further than five yards from me. It was like a nightmare — a very distressing sight.”

Some are sure to vilify the police and their commanders for the decision to employ shoot-to-kill/head shot tactics, just as they would assuredly blame the authorities for not firing fast enough if the dead man had been a terrorist and had been able to detonate a bomb as he was falling. Mrs. Whitby would have found the situation far more distressing if she was spending today waiting for a call from the corner's office that they'd been able to locate the majority of Mr. Whitby.

Terrorism is a dirty business, and unfortunately, fighting terrorism can be bloody as well. It takes courage, dedication, and quick reactions. The Metropolitan Police failed yesterday, not because they lacked courage or dedication or because they shot the wrong man, but because they did not shoot him fast enough.

Operation Kratos, the shoot-to-kill policy designed to save London commuters from suicide bombers is a sound, intelligent policy, but it cannot work if the police are going to second-guess themselves.

Real suicide bombers are likely to take advantage of yesterday's justifiable shooting and the hesitation that might creep into the mind of the next Metropolitan police officer that is faced with a similar situation.

Everyone knows that the police are deadly serious now. The next suspect to run toward a bus or subway will likely be a terrorist intent on finishing his mission as he dies.

I have a bit of advice for the London Metro police offices on call that day: squeeze, don't jerk the trigger. You may kill indeed kill someone who isn't a terrorist... but if you're wrong and don't fire on a real terrorist, hundreds could pay for your hesitation.

Sight. Squeeze. Save lives.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at July 23, 2005 04:08 PM | TrackBack

The cops were undercover, wearing plain clothes.

If you're in jolly old England, unarmed by law, and some chav looking guys, with a different amount of melanin from you, start yelling at you and waving a pistol what do you do? Run! Looking scared is optional but fits the scenario.

Posted by: marc at July 24, 2005 01:54 PM

Marc, you forget to mention that the three plainclothes cops were accompanied by an estimated 15-20 uniformed cops also involved in the chase.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at July 24, 2005 02:09 PM

It would change my mind if the cops were in uniform.

The BBC link in this post says "Witnesses report seeing up to 20 plain clothes police officers chase a man into Stockwell Tube station" (quote from the graphic at the bottom). And the "Sun" just says "at least 15-20 policemen were running down". I son't know if those are the same 20 as the BBC mentions or if they were in or out of uniform. Most articles only mention that "plainclothes" officers killed Menezes.

I also like the exceptionally fit officers in the "recreation" at the top of the "Sun" link ;)

Posted by: marc at July 24, 2005 02:50 PM