A week ago, I took my blog in a different direction to what I intended it to be and for the first time I actually took a viewpoint on a current affair. Anyone that sees my public/internet profiles does not know anything for definite of my political/religious/sexual beliefs. I only offer inference and until then have kept my viewpoints to myself.
Before I continue, I wish to point out that in no way am I writing on the De Menezes case for publicity purposes. The views expressed here are my own and I have decided to use this blog as a point of expression, not publicity. In other words it was a rant, but something I still feel passionately about and have yet to be convinced otherwise, that the police are to blame for the death of Jean Charles de Menezes.
Okay, that’s the big words over and done with.
Surprisingly I received one comment from an ‘Anonymous’, my first on this blog, who stated that he/she was a former police officer. That commentator made some points that I will address.
Firstly it was suggested that I said that ‘the police should be human shields’. Maybe I was unclear about this point. I do not believe that the police ‘should be’ human shields. All I am stating is the reality of their job. Policing is a dangerous business and they are put into front line situations. If someone is waving a gun in the air or stabbing kids with a machete, the police are called upon to stop them. I make an extreme point, but this is where I use the term as ‘Human Shield’ as merely being a fact of life as the role of a police officer.
Similarly, I do not believe an army soldier deserves to die, but that is what they have been paid to do in the most extreme case of their job. Policing can be a grisly task, they are paid to deal with ALL aspects of society. But the recruits know full well what they have signed up for. Let me once again state that no one likes to see anyone killed in whatever job they carry out whether it is as a construction worker, police officer or an army soldier.
However, the main point of contention from ‘Anonymous’ was that De Menezes looked like Hussein Osman. You have to have eye sight that is worse than mine not to spot the difference between an Ethiopian and a Brazilian. I was accused of tarring the police officers with racism. But if they could not tell the difference between two people separated by a continent and an ocean, then the police officers must have thought only one thing when entering Stockwell station - ‘Black is Black’.
This is London, not Dorset, and they are officers of the Metropolitan Police Force. They are there to police and protect the people of London, not the countryside. In other words they are policing people from around the world and they should have a basic knowledge of the various nationalities that coexist in this city. And as council tax payers in London, we are paying a lot of money for them - the MET do not come cheap. If the best marksmen in the UK (and arguably in Europe) cannot tell the difference between an African and a South American, they do not deserve to be paid out of our taxes.
It has also been stated by ‘Anonymous’ and the MET, that the police officers on that day were ‘jittery’ and under pressure from the goings on of that July. I can understand that many ordinary rank and file officers were under a lot of strain during that time, and as a Londoner, I have to commend the way that in the first two weeks from 7/7, the MET acted with great dignity and diligence in trying to keep London running. And they did have the whole city behind them in trying to stop the suicide bombers. Every person in London supported the police, and that was because they showed true professionalism during that difficult time.
On 22/7/05, that changed. Suddenly the police force decided to play ‘Doom’ and shoot a man in a tube carriage in front of other members of the public. As I have stated before, guns (thankfully) are not routine issue to police officers in the UK. To be a police marksman, you have to be the best of the best. They are given high precision weapons and essentially (trying hard not to sound dramatic) have a licence to kill.
Killing Jean Charles up close and personal may be considered a case of the jitters and even for these highly trained officers (who freely filled out the application forms to their well paid posts), they are ultimately human. But shooting a man SEVEN times in the head is nothing better than trigger happy policing. The officers that shot De Menezes were either poorly trained or did not have the character to hold such a weapon. If it was only one shot, the police officers involved would have probably got away with just an internal investigation. Seven bullets to the head (plus four more) left his body ‘unrecognisable’ and was probably the main reason why the issue came to court as a laughable ‘Health and Safety’ case.
BANG. BANG. BANG. BANG. BANG. BANG. BANG. BANG. BANG. BANG. BANG.
Does anyone have an excuse for 11 bullets, fired by the best police officers in the UK, into the body of one man? Just one excuse? Anyone?
Anonymous did have the graciousness to point out that the police did cover up the shooting and fed lies to the public. Again, this unacceptable and I hope that anyone still reading this post can recognise that this was unacceptable, but unsurprising behaviour. Face up to the facts. And why cover-up if, you believe you are in the right?
Jean Charles de Menezes was an ordinary guy who went to work and got on with his life. He paid his taxes like everyone else, and like all inhabitants of London expected the MET to protect him. On 22nd July 2005, the police not only failed miserably, but all those involved should have been fired as quite clearly such incompetence should not be allowed at the highest level of the nation’s top police service (remember: guns = highly trained officers).
What was worse than the shooting were the cover ups and support for the police. How about the life of a 27 year old man who had nothing to do with the bombings? And I state this again, the death of de Menezes probably saved the lives of countless Londoners from trigger happy policing. It was probably the reason why the July 21st bombers were actually caught, tried and sentenced rather than shot in their flats.
Let me state that I am not a hater of the police. I have not (yet) been subject to their harassment. And as a former bus driver, I have had to deal with the police on many occasions. They are all right people, just doing their job. The rank and file officers are actually quite nice and you can have a laugh with them. And while my life has never been threatened, who else am I going to call if the need arises - the Ghostbusters?
This rant is really aimed at those police officers at the top who have squirmed and wriggled out of their responsibility, despite being paid to hold such responsibilities. It is aimed at those police officers who destroyed the trust and hope that a city pinned on them, due in no small part to the reassurance and the professionalism shown by ordinary rank and file officers during the aftermath of the incidents in July 2005. Unfortunately, it is those same ordinary ‘bobbies on the beat’ that are the public face of the MET and so have to put up with the vitriol that many Londoners feel towards the organisation as a result of 11 bullets.
Jean Charles de Menezes. Born in Minas Gerais 7/1/78. Killed in London 22/7/05 aged only 27. Rest in Peace.