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August 17, 2005

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I hope an equal number of gigabytes of outrage will be forthcoming from the same folks

good one.

I was going to write on this tonight. I think it shows a lot of things, but one of the most important is that even with the proper rules in place, people sometimes do the wrong thing when in the grip of a panic. London police are generally considered some of the best trained in the world. One of the reasons I am so desperate to get things right in the Middle East now is because I fear the US citizenry reaction to a nuclear blast in the US.

Even worse is the story now emerging that one of the police had actually restrained Menezes before another officer fired. From the Guardian:

The documents reveal that a member of the surveillance team, who sat nearby, grabbed Mr de Menezes before he was shot: "I heard shouting which included the word 'police' and turned to face the male in the denim jacket.

"He immediately stood up and advanced towards me and the CO19 [firearms squad] officers ... I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side. I then pushed him back on to the seat where he had been previously sitting ... I then heard a gun shot very close to my left ear and was dragged away on to the floor of the carriage."

(h/t Drum)

This shooting is starting to look like blind panic on the part of the police involved. I hope police departments are taking a sober look at their contingency plans.

We can look forward to hundreds of people being gunned down on the Washington Metro for running to catch a train when hearing the soothing "door's closing" warning.

However, I do think there was a report that he emerged from an apartment (flat?) that was under surveillance by London police. But still, what a terrible story.

I, too, was going to write about this if no one else did. It's a horrible, horrible story. I had always understood that the London police/Scotland Yard were generally very good, so I'm unsure what, if any, broader lessons to take from this, other than the one Edward mentions: police are human, and the idea that the innocent have nothing to fear from them is crazy.

Very, very sad story.

It was a very sad story even in the first version, in which the police had a variety of plausible reasons for their actions.

Now, it just gets sadder.

Still, I'm not sure outrage is called for *yet*. (Especially since the Met is being fairly forthcoming with *horribly* embarrassing facts, facts which they certainly might have wanted to cover up).

Why can't I muster the outrage? Because of what Daniel Davies says here .

However, I do think there was a report that he emerged from an apartment (flat?) that was under surveillance by London police. But still, what a terrible story.

Actually, the detail I saw on this was that they were watching an entire block, and he emerged from one of them.

The outrage is deserved not for the original act, IMO, but rather the apparent attempt to cover-up the way it unfolded.

Again, new laws like the PATRIOT ACT demand that we trust the authorities. If they'll lie to avoid looking bad, human nature or not, it erodes that trust. Stricter laws require stricter adherence to telling the public the truth.

Edward_

Thanks--I had not caught that part.

Yes--to whatever extent there was a cover-up, outrage is more than merited. My reference to Daniel Davies--and I do encourage everyone to look at his piece--only pertains to the original shooting.

I've had direct encounters with the police where I live, and in London, many times.

For the most part I can honestly say I think the police do an excellent job under difficult circumstances. (I've been on legal and illegal demonstrations, for example, and the police have - certainly throughout the past ten years - behaved well, and policed sometimes very large numbers of people in a peaceful, non-aggressive way.)

But, I'm white. And there is a known and troubling racist factor in many police forces. Most recruits are white: there has been at least one confirmed incident of bullying a non-white officer into resigning: and the Metropolitan police in particular have a bad reputation for endemic racism.

I don't know the answer. I want to talk with a friend who's a deputy constable in London and find out what the internal word is: I've been meaning to do that since the news got out that the original police story was simply not true.

Jes: if you can let us know, I'd be interested. Of course, if you can't, you can't.

One of the reasons I am so desperate to get things right in the Middle East now is because I fear the US citizenry reaction to a nuclear blast in the US.

What do these two things have to do with one another? Apparently, Sebastien, there weren't any nuclear weapons in Iraq.

But that's just the Duelfer Report, and what is it?

2shoes: There is, however, no evidence that Mr. Menezes did not have, or was not seeking to acquire, a nuclear bomb.

One of the reasons I am so desperate to get things right in the Middle East now is because I fear the US citizenry reaction to a nuclear blast in the US.

Has someone been watching too much '24'? Sometimes 'desperate' people spin into hysteria and since I live at virtual Ground Zero here in lower Manhattan I'll choose to just work harder to oust my President, who poses a far worse threat to what I hold dear than any terrorist.

There is, however, no evidence that Mr. Menezes did not have, or was not seeking to acquire, a nuclear bomb.

Well, that's definitive enough circular thinking for me. Round up every Brazilian or Brazilian looking person. If we don't succumb to our fear, the terrorists have won.

SCMT: but did he have nuclear weapons related program activities?

Jes, being a woman probably helps in encounters with police as well.

being a woman probably helps in encounters with police as well

A friend of Patrick Nielsen Hayden's recently remarked to him, “Being a middle-aged white woman is kind of like having civil rights, but not really an adequate substitute.”

London police are generally considered some of the best trained in the world.

The British Police are the best in the world
I don't believe one of these stories I've heard
'Bout them raiding our pubs for no reason at all
Lining the customers up by the wall
Picking out people and knocking them down
Resisting arrest as they're kicked on the ground
Searching their houses and calling them queer
I don't believe that sort of thing happens here

-- Glad to be Gay by Tom Robinson

Also, they never framed four men for an IRA bombing, either.

These; "Officials", Police, Their-Supervisors, Blair; "et al" May-At Their Public-Executions-Apologise.

Murdering-Fascist-Scum All!

Ymir-Jule--

Well, thank you for articulating (if that's the word) the position with which I exactly do *not* agree.

It is utterly horrible that Menezes was killed. But I do not think it is possible to design a system for preventing mass-casualty suicide attacks in which things like this will not sometimes happen.

I agree that some horrible mistakes were made. Some of them may even involve various degrees of culpability--insufficient attention, even (though I doubt it) reckless disregard. I don't say that these are mistakes we have to accept, no matter how well-designed a system is, since some of these mistakes may go beyond that. We may reasonably expect a system to do better. But no system will be able to avoid deaths like this.

Murder it was not.

Um, I think I would rather not live in a society where people are randomly gunned down in the subway by the cops. That's just me though. Does anybody really think this type of police behavior reduces the likelihood of an actual mass-casualty terrorist attack? Call me skeptical.

Another thing that bugs me about this incident is the convenient simultaneous 'malfunction' in all of the many surveillance cameras that should have caught this on film. Strains credibility, to say the least.

"a society where people are randomly gunned down"

which is not what happened w/ Menezes.

Acting on *mistaken* information is very different from shooting someone at random.

Look, there are lots of things you can say in condemnation of the police behavior in this event. I don't want to spend a lot of time defending it, and I suspect parts of it are indefensible.

But at least get your condemnations right. He was not "randomly gunned down". They shot him, in particular, rather than thousands of other people on the platform, because they had a whole bunch of beliefs about him, in particular. Those beliefs were wrong. It was a horrible screw-up, possibly an unforgiveable one.

Randomly gunning someone down is what the guy in Steve Martin's "The Jerk" attempts, i.e. picking someone at complete random, e.g. out of a phone book. Or just by standing in Times Square, closing your eyes, spinning around three times, and opening fire. Either of those could be describe as "randomly gunning down". This cannot.

Oh, and Mr. Winder--

I agree, the CCTV failure smells *really* bad. I don't like that part at all.

But that also belongs to the question of a cover-up, not the original shooting.

He hates cans!!!

Tad,
Ok, perhaps "randomly gunned down" is not the best characterization in this case. How about "selectively gunned down"? Not that it makes much difference to the victim. From his perspective, it may as well have been random.

In fact, in a sense, it is worse that he wasn't randomly gunned down. Because his shooting was relatively random, but only within a given suspect class. Since it was random as to the whole population, they have no particular reason to worry about it.

And those in the suspect class? Well, for them, it really was fairly random factors at work: who lived near you, who had to pee, when your train arrived, and how twitchy the policeman tasked with addressing you was. Which is to say, if you're in the suspect class, what can you do to lessen the chance of being shot? Nothing, it turns out.

I was suspicious of this from the get-go, and my worst fears proved correct; based on my admittedly limited knowledge of the racial baggage carried by the London cops, and buttressed by Jes's comments, I suspect that when this all washes out we'll be looking at the approximate British equivalent of Driving While Black.

That said, if I were a terrorist -- which, for the record, I am not -- then I would, based on this policy, simply have all my future suicide bombers use dead-man switches.

Tad, does it become murder if he was shot while being held?

putting on my public defender hat, i'd argue imperfect self defense -- the cop had an unreasonable belief that he was about to get blown up. that reduces murder to negligent homicide. (i think.)


we'll be looking at the approximate British equivalent of Driving While Black

The shooting victim wasn't particularly phenotypically categorizable, from what I can tell. British journalist on NPR tonight reported that an officer on surveillance detail was distracted when the subject left the flat (due to the call of nature, apparently), and gave a classic "it might have been him [one of the thwarted bombers] but I'm not sure" identification to his colleagues. The targeting was based on an intelligence failure, not racial profiling.

The incident, as horrendous as it was, was at least in some ways defendable. They were trying to save many other lives.

The lying that emerged immediately after the incident, on the other hand, is cause for great alarm, in my opinion. It wasn't the police coming forward to correct the public's perception here. They were assumedly content to let the public continue to think that if you're wearing a heavy coat on a hot day, you jump a turnstile, and run when asked to stop, then you stand a chance of being shot. All things you can endeavor to avoid. When the fact was that if you were unfortunate enough to leave a house while the surveilance officer had to relieve himself, and looked a bit foreign, there's precious little you can do to avoid being shot short of not entering a means of public transportation.

Nothing much else to add except that this was a sad and horrific incident, especially now that the facts have come to light. Given these facts, the officer (officers?) who shot him crossed the rules of engagement by several time zones.

They were trying to save many other lives.

The final retort of tyrrants everywhere: it was for the greater good.

Look, I don't particularly assume there was bad faith on the part of the police in this event. It was unfortunate, and hopefully they will be more circumspect in their terror prevention methods in the future. But I really don't see "they were trying to save lives" as any sort of justification. I hate this Administration, but I don't think Bush is in it to hurt people - I think he's doing it for his perception of the greater good. That doesn't make me think he's any better for the country.

One of the reasons I am so desperate to get things right in the Middle East now is because I fear the US citizenry reaction to a nuclear blast in the US.

My sentiments exactly. Unfortunately, pandering to bloodlust is the wrong way to have gone about this.

Well, one of the reasons why they may have gotten so worried is because one of the cops watching the building where Menezes lived had to go to the bathroom and lost track of Menezes. Has Scotland Yard changed its name to Keystone?

Given these facts, the officer (officers?) who shot him crossed the rules of engagement by several time zones.

I am not yet sure of this. I have a feeling that they may have followed the rules of engagement exactly, in which culpability for this incident goes up to those who instituted them.

on npr today, they reported that:
the police were monitoring an apartment building where they suspected terrorists were living. the cop on watch took a leak, then came back and told the other cops that he "thought" a suspicious character (menezes) was headed for the train. they followed him. then they shot him, because he was a minority who had run for the train (as i have done countless times as a white woman).

All things about this incident are frightening and appalling. If the shooting is so defensible, why the immediate and persistent lying and cover-up?

Tad, thank you very much for the pointer to Dsquared's excellent post. But I have to disagree about giving the Met any credit or the benefit of the doubt here. They're not releasing these facts; the information is leaking out of an independent investigation. I shudder to think how long it would take these facts to emerge from an internal investigation. As it is, the immediate spouting of lies by the Met, that they had to know were lies, and their failure to correct any of them since, combined with the "missing" video footage, speaks volumes.

"on npr today, they reported that:..."

that's almost all wrong. The soldier watching that entrance to the building couldn't tell, so said someone else should check. The police then followed de Menezes to and on a bus. When they realised he was going towards the tube station they called up the Special Ops police (plus some army people?), who are authorised to shoot a suspected suicide bomber if Gold Command gives the go-ahead. He ran. (If the police officer who restrained him is right) two police officers followed him onto the train, he heard others who were following shouting "police" and walked towards the officer, who restrained him. A third policeman shot him -- the first policeman wasn't expecting that.

One story is, the Gold Commander told them not to shoot, simply to detain him. That fits with what the first two police did. I thought at first the man who shot de Menezes panicked but I think it may be even more worrying than that.


"They're not releasing these facts; the information is leaking out of an independent investigation"

right.

"the immediate spouting of lies by the Met, that they had to know were lies, and their failure to correct any of them since, combined with the "missing" video footage, speaks volumes."

a senior police officer said some while ago that if/when the truth got out, it would be horrific.


Well, I did write about this on the 14th; more updates here.

Puzzling new revelations. It seems that the facts about the shooting (no back-pack, no heavy jacket, no vaulting the barrier) were released to the de Menezes family within 2 days of the shooting. Since this is so easily checkable I'm assuming the Met wouldn't lie.

So, "the immediate spouting of lies by the Met, that they had to know were lies, and their failure to correct any of them since, combined with the "missing" video footage, speaks volumes." may not speak quite as many volumes.

Anyway, it's my understanding that the criticism is not that the Met lied, but that they let misleading media coverage go uncorrected.

Remember all those eye-witness statements immediately after the shooting? What the hell were they about?

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