Sunday, July 24, 2005

Pot Shots At Scotland Yard

London Metropolitan Police are defending their shoot-to-kill policy to prevent terrorist attacks, even though the man they shot Thursday was not an Islamic extremist from Saudi Arabia but a Catholic electrician from Brazil.

"This is a tragedy,"[Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian] Blair said Sunday of the shooting. "The Metropolitan Police accepts full responsibility for this. To the family I can only express my deep regrets."

He also defended the shoot-to-kill policy, saying such action only applied when lives were believed to be at risk.

"I am very aware that minority communities are talking about a shoot-to-kill policy," he said. "It's only a shoot-to-kill-in-order-to-protect policy."

Blair said British police have drawn from the experiences of other countries, including Sri Lanka, that have dealt with suicide attackers.

"The only way to deal with this is to shoot to the head," Blair said. "There is no point in shooting at someone's chest because that is where the bomb is likely to be."

Blair spoke of the problem his officers faced.

"What we have got to recognize is that people are taking incredibly difficult fast-time decisions in life-threatening situations," he said. "What's most important to recognize is that it's still happening out there. There are still officers out there having to make those calls as we speak."

Police said Menezes attracted police attention because he left a building that was under surveillance after Thursday's attacks. They said he was then followed by surveillance officers to the station, and his clothing and behaviour at the station added to their suspicions. Menezes was wearing a heavy coat while temperatures were above 21 C.

One of the sad facts of the war against Islamic terrorism, as with any other war, is that innocent people get caught in the crossfire.

The decision to shoot isn't an easy one to make, but it has to be made quickly based on the most probable outcome of the evidence at hand.

It's easy to second guess the police in hindsight, but there's no time for them to second guess themselves. If they do, they're of no use to us.

Had they held their fire and Menezes turned out to be carrying a bomb, the same people who complain about one innocent man dying because of an honest mistake would complain about dozens dying because of police incompetence.

Menezes' death is a tragedy, but the greater tragedy is the need for a shoot-to-kill policy.

Source: Toronto Star

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