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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Justice [20050724|10:35]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
Police shoot the wrong man in connection with the London bombings.

He was a young man from a poor family who'd managed to dig himself out of a violent neighborhood in Brazil and make his way to the UK to learn English and get a job. Given his background, I find it rather unsurprising that, when bunch of plain-clothes officers pulled a gun on him, he ran away. I also don't think that the officers took the correct action if they suspected he was carrying explosives. Spooking him and then chasing him into an Underground station, assuming he was a bomber, would hardly have deterred him from setting them off. Additionally, if they wanted to subdue him, they didn't need to shoot him. Hitting him over the head or using a stun gun would have sufficed to render him unconscious. However, even without such circumstantial details, I don't believe the use of deadly force was justified.

I'm pretty furious about this. I'm furious because, when I first heard about the shooting, I was shocked and upset that the police were taking this kind of action without due process in full view of the public. I'm also furious because when I first heard about it, a part of me wasn't all that uncomfortable with the idea. After the release of the CCTV images of the suspects, I felt it was only a matter of time before law enforcement tracked them down and detained them. I thought that the probability that the plain-clothes officers had fatally shot the wrong man was small, and I took comfort in that idea.

I'm very angry at myself for doing that. It is never right to condemn someone to execution - because that is what this was - without a hearing. I've heard the arguments that some of the blame should lie with him for running away, that the police took the correct action given the suspicion that he could have been carrying explosives under his jacket, but in my opinion, they're all cover-ups for the failure to admit that sometimes people (and I include myself in this) would rather have a quick fix involving dead "bad guys" to abolish their fear than go through the laborious process necessary to mete out true justice.

In other news, suicide bombers killed at least 88 in an Egyptian tourist resort and chibaraki drew me a picture of a vampirate mining the gay, which might just be the best thing ever.

linkReply

Comments:
From: capitalflash
2005-07-24 10:03 (UTC)
THANY YOU. your post got it spot on.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-07-24 10:46 (UTC)
Have you read the comments on the shooting on the BBC site? If you want to be infuriated further, go there.

A lot of people seem to have "understandable" confused with "justified" or even "right." I think the police response can easily be understood. I still think it was unjustified and wrong.
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From: capitalflash
2005-07-24 18:11 (UTC)
if i'm looking to get riled for no reason, i'll have a look at the 'have your say' section but sometimes, just sometimes i decide not to be such a machosist. i think who i'm really starting to hate is whoever is the editor/editing team of that section of the website. it makes my countrymen look stupid, ridiculous 'facts' are not checked over and people invoke godwin's law way too much for my liking.
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From: capitalflash
2005-07-24 18:33 (UTC)
apologies for the bad spelling :(
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-07-24 10:50 (UTC)
I'm sure they did. I'd like to hope that this was an isolated incident, that the immediate acceptance of culpability by the police chief will help to ameliorate the situation and that in the future, actions taken against the suspects will be more more in keeping with the civilized world's method of dealing with criminals. I doubt that this incident will be without lasting repercussions, however.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-07-24 15:19 (UTC)
I'd like to understand why he ran, too, but since he's dead now we can't ask him.

In all seriousness, he may have been a criminal of some other strip. Perhaps he had drugs on him. But I think he probably ran because some scary dudes who weren't in uniform started shouting at him and waving a gun. It's probably that simple.

I'd also like to know why, if he was suspected of being a bomber and was already under surveillance, he was permitted to make a bus journey. Why not arrest him at the house?
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[User Picture]From: telnar
2005-07-24 15:19 (UTC)

I'm with Ken here

I don't often agree with Ken Livingstone (mayor of London), but I think that he's got it right that this death was indirectly caused by terrorists.

There is a balance which needs to be struck between the risk of allowing a suicide bomber to use his explosives and the risk of shooting a man who is not a terrorist just because he has some other reason to flee from people who claim to be police (that reason might be anywhere from a misunderstanding about whether they really are police, or being a suspect in some other crime).

Whatever the right way to strike that balance is under more peaceful circumstances, the fact that terrorists are more likely to be operating surely changes how the police should respond, since it increases the risk which goes with waiting. It's debatable what the best policy is for various levels of alert, and some might argue that this was wrong even at a high level of alert (though I would disagree, since his coat in summer combined with an unwillingness to stop provided ample reason to be concerned, if nowhere near proof beyond a reasonably doubt). It seems clear, though, that at the lower state of alert that would have prevailed without the recent bombings, this never would have happened.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-07-24 17:22 (UTC)
If the terrorists have achieved a state of affairs where civilians can walk around surrounded by plain-clothes policemen who, if they suspect said civilians of wrongdoing, feel justified in using deadly force against them should they fail to comply with police commands, then I'd say the terrorists have reason to celebrate. We'll be operating on the terms they've dictated for us. It's a little difficult to preserve freedom under those terms.

This strikes me as a botched operation, however, so perhaps things aren't as dire as that. If the man was under surveillance since the moment he left his house, then I don't understand why he was allowed to make a bus journey to the Tube station. Why assume that a Tube station is a more likely target than a bus? If he was deemed dangerous enough to shoot, why not detain him before he arrived at his presumed target? If police are going to act pre-emptively against suspected terrorists, why not apprehend them when they are not in a position to harm civilians? There's a lack of consistency in policy here that confuses and disturbs me.
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[User Picture]From: telnar
2005-07-24 19:18 (UTC)

Other facts

Based on the additional information that the undercover police had been following him all the way from his house (which I wasn't including in my opinion, having not seen it before the comments in this thread), it looks like the police may have botched things.

It's hard to be sure, though. Nothing we know so far precludes the possibility that the police were tailing him in the hope that he would lead them to other terrorists (perhaps they weren't sure whether he planned to attack that day or on some other day). Then, perhpas they saw something in his manner which made them decide that the immediate risk had become too large and they needed to bring him in right away. This is all conjecture, but I wanted to point out that there might be more going on than we know so far.

As an aside, the terrorists make life harder for the rest of us simply by existing since we have to waste resources either preventing attacks or coping with the consequences of attacks or both. The trick is minimizing those harms. One possible answer to at least many of the problems raised here would be to give the police a difficult to forge signaling device (it doesn't really matter whether it's sound or light) which would allow undercover police officers to establish who they are when they are too far away from a suspect to show a badge. Then it would be more justifiable to draw inferences from a suspect's flight.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-07-24 17:43 (UTC)
Oh, another thing that's been bothering me. I think entirely too much suspicion has been attached to his bulky jacket. I'd like to point out a couple of things. First of all, he was Brazilian. The weather might have seemed a bit cool to him. I know I'm often exclaimed at for wearing long sleeves and trousers in weather that has most English people donning tank tops and shorts. Secondly, there's that thing called "fashion," in the name of which people are willing to bear a staggering amount of discomfort. Witness high heels, hobble skirts, and trousers so loose they have to be hiked up every three seconds to keep them from falling off the ass of the wearer.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-07-24 22:32 (UTC)
I don't think I heard or read about that anywhere. Where did you pick up that info?
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[User Picture]From: chickenfeet2003
2005-07-24 13:22 (UTC)
There are aspects of this story that just don't add up. Foremost among them is why did pollice chase a suspected suicide bomber INTO a tube station? That makes no sense at all. Supposing, as reported in some quarters, there is a policy of shooting to kill in the case of suicide bombers why wouldn't they have taken him out before he got into the tube?

I also wonder about the purpose of having large concentrations of armed plain clothes officers. The risk that a suspect will react like this boy did when challenged is obviously much greater when the police are not in uniform. I would have thought close surveillance would be better carried out by a very small number of plain clothes officers with uniformed personnel on call at a short distance. Any reasonably savvy terrorist is going to recognise the presence of large numbers of plain clothes officers.

All in all, it just doesn't make sense.
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[User Picture]From: wardytron
2005-07-24 14:57 (UTC)
For flips sake, they didn't chase him into a tube station, he ran into a tube station and they followed him. In a chase, the bloke in front determines where it goes. Try chasing someone and see how it turns out. You'll find that you don't get to choose where you go.

Anyway, nanila, you're wrong to say that he was shot in order to kill "bad guys". The Rozzers and the intelligence services would rather have a bad guys in custody than a bad guy in a coffin. He was shot because he was mistakenly believed to be a bomber who was about to detonate a bomb. If you don't want the police to be allowed to shoot people in those circumstances, that's fine, but you can't base that decision on whether or not he subsequently turned out to be innocent, because at the time you don't know.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-07-24 15:09 (UTC)
The BBC article makes it sound like the officers had been following him since he left the house. He took a bus to the tube station. If he was already under suspicion of being a bomber, why didn't they arrest him when he left the house? Why wait until he got close to his supposed target? If they felt the suspect was enough of a threat to merit putting five bullets in his head, it seems pretty irresponsible to permit him to get closer to it before arresting him.

I'm not basing my judgment on his presumed guilt or innocence and I wasn't saying he was shot in order to kill "bad guys." I'm saying that I think a great many people are comfortable with the notion of the police killing presumed bad guys because they think it'll make them safer, and that that seems pretty illogical, not to mention wrong, to me.
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[User Picture]From: wardytron
2005-07-24 15:16 (UTC)
For me the point is that the policy itself is right or wrong regardless of whether or not he was innocent, because at the time you don't know. The procedure wasn't correct on Friday, when he was thought to have been guilty, and wrong today, because he turned out to have been innocent. It's a really difficult call to make, but I agree that we don't want the Rozzers to be able to shoot people because they look dodgy or whatever. I think the fact that they were in plainclothes was a problem as well - you can shout "Armed police! Stop or we'll shoot!" but why should someone believe you when all he knows is that 3 blokes with guns are chasing him? But then, can you conduct a counter-terrorism operation in a police uniform? It's a toughie.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-07-24 15:12 (UTC)
Yes, it bothers me very much that he was under surveillance when he left the house, he made a bus journey (because we all know buses are exempt from terrorist attack?) and then he was confronted when he got to the tube station. Why wait until a suspect you feel is dangerous enough to merit deadly force gets close to his presumed target?
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[User Picture]From: taische
2005-07-24 18:59 (UTC)
I agree- if the level of suspicion was that high, they could almost certainly have intercepted him at many safer points along the way. If they seriously thought he was carrying a bomb (and one must imagine they did given that they were prepared to shoot him), then intelligence-gathering and surveillance were not excuses for delaying. Another benefit of attempting to apprehend him as soon as possible away from high-risk areas is that a concerted attempt could have been made to take him alive using non-lethal means (at considerable risk to the officers, of course, but the dangers of staying within the law- including the dangers associated with avoiding killing people absent justifiable cause- go with the job and the paycheck). To those who argue that one can't really judge the situation without having been there, I would suggest that this is certainly true, but that the choice by any human being to use deadly force against another always merits very careful scrutiny and the questioning of the individual's judgment and motives- all the more so when the person doing the killing is acting as an agent of the state and the question of killing-as-policy necessarily arises. Hopefully any lessons learned at this point will encourage law enforcement personnel to act with better strategic and tactical judgement in the future.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-07-24 19:47 (UTC)
That analogy doesn't work. The bus driver has no control over the decision-making process in that situation. Okay, if he notices in time, he can try to slam on the brakes, but the inertia of the bus will carry it forward anyway. In any case, the likely reaction of the bus driver is to attempt to save the person's life. The policeman with the gun had a choice what to do with the gun in his hand throughout the attempted apprehension of the suspect. Unless the suspect put his hand over the policeman's and pulled the trigger for him, which is the only circumstance under which the policeman's situation becomes analogous to the bus driver's, the decision to shoot was his, not the suspect's.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-07-24 22:55 (UTC)
I don't think that assuming the worst case scenario took the decision out of the policeman's hands. He had to make that judgment. He made the choice to use deadly force based on his assessment of the circumstances. The bus driver in your example doesn't have control over the deadly force exerted by the inertia of the bus.

Personally, I was trying not to apportion blame. I'd like to know exactly what happened and why, if he was considered dangerous enough to justify using deadly force against him, he was allowed to journey from the house all the way to his presumed target. Whatever the circumstances, I don't think the policeman can be excused of the responsibility for pulling the trigger on the basis of the suspect's behavior. Anyone who takes a life in a violent manner is always responsible for that death. Whether or not they decide to feel guilty is a decision that should be based on personal ethics; whether or not they deserve punishment is a decision that should be based on the law, as determined by a thorough examination of the circumstances.
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[User Picture]From: thefounder
2005-07-25 10:05 (UTC)
"...in a city containing uncaptured bombers."

really? you're sure they've not left London? i think most people probably would in that situation.
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[User Picture]From: repoman
2005-07-25 03:01 (UTC)
The further you leave home, the more it tries to follow you. The excuses being used were used a few years ago after 9/11 when the government was rounding up people. I heard over and over how excessive force is needed to ensure our safety. The message of some of our rights would need to be comprimised was pummeled into our frontal lobe. These groups were jealous of our freedom and wanted to take it down...

...yet it makes little sense. If were taking some of our freedom away, doesn't that make the terrorists win? If they hate our system of justice, then why are we scrapping it for them? I thought America was alone on throwing out rights but it seems the British arn't far behind.

Plus its easy to see how this was completely racial. Did the police gun down various Irishmen during the troubles? Were they rounded up routinely or shot while being chased?
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[User Picture]From: sekl
2005-07-28 16:40 (UTC)
It's weird how much we judge on appearances. Police=uniform, running suspect=guilty suspect. It's amazing we got to the moon with these sorts of snap judgments, but I guess it saved us 10,000 years ago from being predator bait. Terrorist acts always seem to stoke the fires of dehumanization within us.

What would be true justice for the bombing victims? Just bringing their killers to trial seems a bit disproportionate to the loss of life and humanity. Perhaps they should publicly read the obituaries of every single victim to acknowledge what they've taken.
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