Thursday, March 09, 2006

"Shoot to kill"

Reuters reports that an initial review has suggested that the Met's "shoot to kill" policy is appropriate and should remain. This has led to another chorus from various quarters that such a policy is both wrong and undemocratic as it was introduced in secret.

I honestly fail to see the secrecy. I would have always expected that if a police officer saw a suicide bomber and thought the only way they could stop them killing others was to shoot them then they should do so. As suicide bombing does not require great physical exertion it seems entirely credible that killing is the only way of stopping them and that it must often be done quickly. If this has been formalised recently then I don't think a police cover up is to blame for that formalisation not making the front page; it doesn't sound much like news.

The problem in the de Menezes case was that the police shot someone who was not a suicide bomber. This may raise questions about whether the police have poor mechanisms for identifying suicide bombers but it says little about how they should behave towards bombers once they identify them.


Dave Cole said...

Kratos, the shoot-to-kill policy, was brought in at a point in time in the past eighteen months or so. There was no discussion about whether this was appropriate. I don't care if it is self-evidently right, or even, for that matter, if it has the approval of the the Pope and the Virgin Mary. A policy which changes the manner of action of the policy from a non-lethal to a lethal one should have been advertised. Perhaps if they had, and people knew in advance that there was a risk of mistake, they would have been less up-in-arms about the death of JC de M.

In any case, the Met's argument about the only way to disable a potential suicide bomber being by killing them is self-evident rot. Deadman's switch anyone?

Now, stop posting this crap and talk about Pinochet. I feel self-righteous.


Matthew Sinclair said...

Rubbish. It has always been police policy to shoot someone if they consider it necessary to protect the lives of others. That is evident from the occasional horrible cases where some teenager with an airgun gets shot (or a mental patient with a samurai sword in one occasion I remember). My problem is with this bizarre allegation of a significant break in police policy which you are repeating.

The particular policy of how to deal with suicide bombers is a change in format rather than accepting some new end result.

Dave Cole said...

The difference is that previously the police shot to disable, now they shoot to kill. I contend that going from disabling to killing is a qualitative, not quantative, change and therefore justifies prior notice and debate.


Matthew Sinclair said...

People have always been shot if they might otherwise kill. The examples I have cited aren't mistakes in that the police officers hit the head while aiming for the arm. The mistake was that kids with airguns aren't really threatening to kill someone. Armed police are used when people cannot be disabled except through shooting them and there have always been occasions where that has meant killing them.

What has changed is that suicide bombers are far more difficult to disable, as they carry devices easy to detonate, and that it is therefore necessary to kill far more quickly if a suicide bomber is thought to be close to detonation. Enshrining this simple logic in a set of rules doesn't sound like a systematic change at all.