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Wednesday, March 08, 2006 

de Menezes: "Complete and utter fuck-up" policy doesn't need to be changed.

Occasionally, there are decisions made by public bodies which seem so out of step with both public opinion and common sense that you wonder whether the board is actually trying to be deliberately provocative. The Association of Chief Police Officers have decided that Operation Kratos, the shoot-to-kill policy which led to the murder of an innocent man, doesn't need to be substantially changed or even abolished; rather the police just simply have to give the public a clearer explanation of such tactics.

The policy of shooting-to-kill was never discussed in parliament, nor were the public made aware of it until it was actually used. It came about after intelligence training, in which the Met visited both Israel and Russia, both countries which have had to deal with suicide bombers. Since then Israeli spokesmen have repudiated the apparent British approach. They have said that de Menezes would never have been shot in Israel in the circumstances in which he was at Stockwell; before any force is discharged the police have to be next to certain that they are dealing with a bomber. Moreover, ever since the death of Menezes police have continuously said that a suspected bomber has to be shot in the head, as a shot elsewhere may either trigger the explosives or still allow the bomber to do so. The Israelis do not carry out such a policy - they are more concerned with disarming the bomber than making sure that the bomber receives a kill shot.

But none of this even really matters to the de Menezes case. The fact of the matter is that just before the shots were repeatedly fired into his head, de Menezes had been tackled and his hands were behind his back. There was no way he could have triggered any explosives. Despite this, the CO19 officer still fired 11 shots, 7 of which hit him in the head, while at least 1 hit his shoulder.

We still do not properly know what happened in full detail on the 22nd of July, as the Crown Prosecution Service is still deciding whether any officers will be charged for their actions, and even then, the IPCC report is unlikely to be released until the end of any trial. The ACPO report then is both premature, likely to be used to quash any debate surrounding the policy and has been released, rather suspiciously on the day in which a BBC Panorama programme is to be screened investigating both the events of the day and the decisions behind Operation Kratos. It seems like yet another surrender to the tabloids, one of which has even suggested that all police officers should have immunity from prosecution when they use their weapons under any circumstances. Then again, when in the case of Harry Stanley, two firearms officers got off scot-free for shooting a man in the back when he was holding a chair-leg in a plastic bag, maybe the police already have it.

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