It’s come to something when I find myself agreeing with Jack Straw, but he does have a point that the police are in an incredibly difficult position at the moment. This still doesn’t, however, justify the killing of an innocent man, which we now know to be the case.
I must admit that when I first heard the news on Friday I naively thought the police couldn’t possibly have shot someone who was in any way innocent, as they must have had a foolproof reason for tackling a guy so comprehensively. Then when I heard Jean Charles de Menezes was actually innocent, I still felt that he’d been asking for trouble by running away when challenged and jumping the ticket barriers at Stockwell underground station. This does not, of course, justify a summary execution but it does at least make it easier to see why the police acted as they did under the circumstances. The fact that he was wearing an unseasonably heavy coat which could have concealed a bomb and he initially emerged from an address police found in one of the unexploded rucksacks from Thursday’s botched terror attacks didn’t help his case, but now these details just look like the worst possible bad luck.
It seemed fairly common sense that running from armed police is simply not something you do if you’re entirely innocent of any crime, and that he may have run because he was (for example) carrying drugs or was in trouble over something else which under normal circumstances would have been merely arrestable, as opposed to killable. However, I didn’t originally realise the officers were in plain clothes, and they haven’t said he was involved in any other kind of crime, so the fact that he did run surely proves he wasn’t fully aware of what was going on. To him, the guys with guns chasing him could have been anyone from London muggers to Brazilian mafia – I doubt we’ll ever know the full story.
That said, the police’s case is pretty threadbare. The fact that they allowed him to get onto a bus before they started chasing him doesn’t tally with their defence that he could have been carrying a bomb. It looks like the whole operation was botched from the start, and that the intelligence they had was more than faulty. But on the other hand, in the current climate, if you have even the slightest suspicion that a bloke has a bomb strapped to his body, how you’re meant to arrest him in a peaceful manner without risking death and destruction is very difficult to determine – but nonetheless something for the police to sort out without resorting to murdering innocent people.
Incidentally it’s not that I haven’t been watching the news as closely as everyone else for the past few weeks, but I tend generally to think I haven’t got anything very interesting to add to the fountain of comment gushing forth at the moment. Sometimes though you have to stand up and make an exception…