Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Sunday, June 11, 2006

  Still pondering why the "wrong man" was shot.

In Britain, they are still pondering why they shot the "wrong man" last July. You'll recall that a man on his way to work on July 22, 2005, Jean Charles de Menezes, was pushed to the floor on a London Underground train and executed by Met policemen under their then-secret "shoot to kill" policy. The police had taken it into their heads that Menezes might be a terrorist, so they decided to blow his head off as a precaution.

After a brief attempt at a cover-up, the London police admitted that Menezes was just a man on his way to work. The Independent Police Complaints Commission began a review that, unsurprisingly, soon found that the operation had been a fiasco, and that the Police Commissioner, Ian Blair, bore responsibility both for the cock-up and for the cover-up. Blair, however, held onto his job tenaciously. He took the unexpected position that he was proud of any mistakes the police made.

In his lecture on "leadership", delivered last Wednesday, Blair indicated that mistakes had been made and that ... allowing subordinates to "make mistakes" was a key strength of a good manager.

It was a compelling argument. Surely measured by Blair's terms the operation had brought out the very best in the London Metropolitan Police force. Blair, a famously modest man, must have blushed to read the praise showered on his managerial skills last fall by the Times of London.

Senior police officers say the inquiry into the operation will reveal a “horror story” when it is completed...At least 10 officers involved in the shooting are understood to have been served with police disciplinary notices. They include the marksmen from CO19, who fired 11 bullets at de Menezes after he boarded a train at Stockwell. Senior officers up to the rank of deputy assistant commissioner may also face manslaughter charges.

But the media is fickle, and just eight months later, as the completed IPCC report is about to be unveiled, they've forgotten the praise that Blair earned from them as a manager. Instead, British newspapers are fueling speculation that the Commissioner might actually lose his job over the episode. This even though no police officers are going to be charged for blowing Menezes' head off as a precaution.

What is worse, as if Britain had learned nothing at all in the eleven months since the killing, discussion of the "event" has reverted right back to where it began last July. The "wrong man", we're told, was shot.

Senior sources in different organisations, who have extensive knowledge of the report, say it finds that:

· Errors and mistakes at every level, from senior officers downwards, contributed to the wrong man being shot

Journalists are doing a grave disservice, both to Blair and to the rest of us, by posing the issue in this fashion. Why must they keep refering to the "wrong man" who was shot? Who in their right mind would frame the issue that way? No more of this, I say.

Whether it's the politicians, police, or press, folks you need to address a different set of questions, at long last: Who was the right man to kill on July 22, 2005? Why was he not held down and killed immediately, when the police discovered that they'd shot the wrong man? Was he allowed to escape, and if so is he still at large? When will he be killed? And will it be done in the Underground?

To my mind these are the bigger and more pressing questions. It's really quite incredible that nobody is able to see that it's the "right man" we should be talking about.


  • "so they decided to blow his head off as a precaution"

    Vicious way of putting it -- and completely deserved. It still angers me sometimes thinking about that whole mess.

    Thanks for keeping up on this story.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:37 AM  

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