back to article The broken terror systems that killed de Menezes

Killers were on the loose and, to quote Friday's Guardian, "terrible risks had to be balanced... it flowed from this that something might go terribly wrong." Except, as the Stockwell One report into the de Menezes shooting makes clear, that's not exactly what it flowed from, and given the systems in place on the day, "might" …


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  1. Dunstan Vavasour

    Register Coverage

    It used to be the case that mainstream media would present this sort of thoughtful, detailed analysis of high profile stories, trying to cut through the headlines and present the story as it was.

    It worries me beyond anything that despite (or, more likely, because of) the expansion in news outlets, rolling news and so on, the most reliable sources of news for me now are Private Eye and The Register.

    The most conspicuous symptom of the bankruptcy of news media today is Newsnight: it used to be that once or twice a week there would be a "Newsnight Special Report" where a journalist would have been given time and budget to investigate a topic/story and prepare their own television "essay" on the subject - Charles Wheeler's reports stay in the memory. These reports are now very rare, a victim of the "Salami cuts" which have just reduced every budget head.

    Thank heavens there are still outlets for mature analysis and commentary, albeit in the "less conventional" parts of the media.

  2. Mark Rainer

    Shoot-to-kill policy is logically flawed

    The Met's shoot-to-kill policy is logically flawed where it is applied to suspected (or even confirmed) suicide bombers.

    As long as innocent Brazillians or other non-combatants are being killed, that's fine by the terrorists: the Met is doing a grand job on their behalf (better, indeed than they appear to be capable of themselves). However, when they succeed in killing a real terrorist on a mission before an explosion, if not before such a time, the terrorists could easily change tactics and proceed in future carrying a grenade with the pin removed. Just in case the few dollars cost of a grenade is too much, a simply modified heart-rate monitor from one of several high street stores may be easier and less obvious.

    I guess we'll have a terrorist test at some future date, much like the medieval witch test: shoot them dead and if they just die, they were innocent but if they explode and kill several innocent bystanders, then we'll know that they were guilty.

  3. Nico Morrison
    Thumb Up


    I must second this - intelligent, thought-out, succinct political coverage & not from a techie POV either thank you.

    I'd also like to think that the Met & other authorities are well aware of what happened & how and that changes have already been made.

    I also abhor the media braying for Sir Ian Blairs' resignation; Red Ken gets it right again as he so often does bless him.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Police Management

    I agree with Dunstan Vavasour completely.

    It used to be said that 'a few bad apples' were giving the police a bad name. It seems those bad apples now run the Metropolitan Police, and nothing can be done to get rid of them.

    We now have the unedifying spectacle of lions - those who ran towards a suspected bomber at great personal risk in order to protect the public - being led by donkeys - those commanders who don't even seem to put their careers or even their bonuses at risk when they fail those under their command and the public in general.

    If they don't have sufficient conscience to resign, they should be sacked, along with all those who put them and kept them in a position of authority for which they are clearly unsuited.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worrying Disfunctional Organisation and Culture

    The legal and moral basis for the killing of a suspect by the police is to protect themselves or the public. There must be a reasonable believe that there is a serious threat which can only be prevented by the use of lethal force. The only people who can sensibly make that decision are people at the scene. The article describes a ludicrously top heavy and buearacratic command and control system. The potential for orders to execute suspects by remote commanders transforms the firearms officers into little more than death squads. Command at a distance cannot work and guarantees mistakes.

    There was clearly no reasonable basis for belive in a serious threat by anyone at the scene and there was a concerted campaign to prevent investigation and mislead the public. This is not an isolated case that previous time the Met shot an innocent unarmed man the same campaign of deception occured. What confidence can we have in the integrity of the police, and the evidence they give, when there is a organisation wide campaign of disinformation and obstruction of investigation led from the very top? There is more than a hint of an organisation culture that believes it is not subject to the same laws and constraints as the rest of society.

    The politics of terror means a that there is a competition in how far the norms of the judicial and polcing system can be extended. Most of the changes have no obvious benefit in reducing the risk of terrorism. The key areas are the hearts and minds of those who may support or become terrorists and intelligence on dangerous organisations. It is unlikely that armed police will ever be in a position to thwart an attack in progress. Suspects identified and under arrest are not the danger, the danger is the people no one knows about. The changes made giving ever more power to the police do not adress the real problem areas but are designed for political rather than security reasons.

  6. Tawakalna
    Thumb Up

    thankyou, El Reg..

    ..good to see someone producing a conclusion from actual facts and not spouting propaganda and received opinion. Although this will probably mean you'll one day be investigated for "supporting terrorism, or making statements likely to be useful for terrorists" - if you haven't already. If any of your team are of Brazilian descent, don't take the Tube to work!

    Keep up the good work guys, one day we will get our country back; one day...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    merely an illusion of security.

    "It is unlikely that armed police will ever be in a position to thwart an attack in progress. Suspects identified and under arrest are not the danger, the danger is the people no one knows about. The changes made giving ever more power to the police do not adress the real problem areas but are designed for political rather than security reasons."

    Agreed, if someone is willing to die to get something done then there really is no way you can effectively stop them without having some degree of intel, even then there's still no telling..

    All these measures taken by the government are just ways they create an illusion of security and safety, and they know it too. The government isn't so much interested in preventing/stopping the attacks as they are interested in maintaining control and order. Like lemmings we go, marching off the tops of cliffs.

    Besides, if they actually prevented an attack then we wouldn't have an excuse to test out the latest war machines on whoever is the most convenient scapegoat... Not to mention, everyone knows how profitable war is... =/

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @Police management

    "We now have the unedifying spectacle of lions - those who ran towards a suspected bomber at great personal risk in order to protect the public - being led by donkeys".

    It's not unedifying - it's the "Nürnberg Defence" - your so-called "lions" offed a patently innocent man just by following orders.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    The ignorance of some commentators is becoming tiresome...

    ... so many are coming up with cheap comments based on "the armed police don't know what they're doing because the terrorists could easily have rigged up a 'dead man's switch' using a heart monitor/timer/[insert whacko idea here]...".

    All of the briefings, informed by actual tactics from across the world, include the possibility of the 'third eye' scenario, detonation being achieved remotely by a geographically proximate third party accomplice even after the bomber is dead. But despite the continuing risk, the officers involved still do their jobs, not because they seek gratitude, but because they believe what they are doing is right. The armchair generals nevertheless continue to pour scorn on the officers' motivation, regardless of the facts, as befits any clueless bystander not in possession of the facts.

    Ah well... as has been said before: with officer numbers falling through the floor over the next few years*, and with it becoming nigh on impossible to get experienced officers to volunteer for firearms duties (largely because it's no longer worth it, there being no additional remuneration for doing so), it won't be a problem for much longer - the unsworn CSOs will have to be the ones with the guns!

    * The Edmund-Davies problem... massive recruitment of officers in the late 1970s means that more than half of all police officers currently serving will be leaving over the next five years.

  10. 1865

    Don't blame the police - blame Hussein Osman

    It was Osman who the day before tried to blow up a train full of passengers at Shepherd’s Bush, Osman was linked to the block of flats in Stockwell where Mr de Menezes lived, and it was Osman whom the police thought they were following. Had Osman not existed, or else been content with allowing his fellow citizens to exist in peace, Jean Charles de Menezes would still be alive.

    The people responsible for terrorism and it's consequences are not the police or government but the terrorists.

  11. Anon E Mus

    Re: 1865

    "The people responsible for terrorism and it's consequences are not the police or government but the terrorists."

    While I accept that police operations are a consequence of terrorism, I don't think that they have to be severely flawed police operations. The terrorists don't control the police (not last time I checked anyway).

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  13. JeffyPooh

    Certainty - on a scale of 1 to 3 <rolls eyes>

    The boundary of knowledge and ignorance is a topic worth studying. It obviously applies to this case. It is much more complicated than a linear scale of 1 to 3; it is more like a multidimensional hypercube.

    Some of the things that we know, we know we know. Furthermore, we often know that what we know is correct (at least as a very good first approximation of some deeper unknown reality - which is fine). Ideally, we would even be aware of the limits of applicability of this knowledge (for example: Newtonian physics applied at speeds near the speed of light).

    There are other things that we don't know, but at least we know that we don't know. Some of those things are knowable but presently unknown; others are unknowable. They might be unknowable because they are Heisenbergish (affected by observation); or Chaotic (sensitively dependent upon initial conditions); or possibly even both.

    There are some things that we actually do know but we don't realize that we know. This is mostly harmless, but sometimes surprising.

    The worst are the things that we think we know but we really don't know. As Feynman noted, naming is not the same as knowing. There's almost no excuse for allowing your brain to wander into this area where the ratio of confidence to competence exceeds unity. You need to actively filter incoming knowledge and ideas to prevent being contaminated in this manner.

    I recommend the following topics for further study:

    1) cognitive bias (including 'list of cognitive biases')

    2) uncertainty principle *

    3) chaos theory *

    * Skip the math; just absorb the basic concepts.

    Google your way into Wiki to start.

    After you educate yourself on this boundary, you will have much less respect for people looking for clear and straightforward answers. And no respect at all for people looking for a simple 1 to 3 value.

  14. Mark

    Bad apples

    Does it matter if there are only a few bad apples in the police forces (or the law, politicians or armed forces)? No, it doesn't because when someone outside comes to take the bad apples out, or when their fellows are found wanting, they close ranks and protect their own.

    Their priviledge has become a requirement and a right. And so, to protect their rights, they must not allow themselves to be held accountable for the exercise of that perogative. These concernes are, for them, far more important than the few bad apples spoiling it for the people they are supposed to help.

    And continuing to call it a few bad apples is their way of convincing themselves that their actions are sound. They dare not see that they are part of the corruption and will not see it.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @1865 "Don't blame the police - blame Hussein Osman"

    Your comment is so stupid I don't know where to begin. The police shot dead an innocent man. That wasn't Hussein Osman's fault.

  16. T. Scheisskopf
    Thumb Down

    A response to 1865

    Oh my.

    Look, in any military operation(and make no mistake: this was, by virtue of its ROE, just that. No a police op.), responsibility for one's actions are not thrown out the window. Osman was not a good guy, by any means, but that shoot of DM flat stinks to high heaven.

    It stinks so much and is so outside the boundaries of standard police doctrine, especially classic UK police doctrine, I would not be surprised when, sometime in the future, to find out that the shooters were, in fact, NOT policemen at all, but SAS/SBS shooters TDY'ed to the operation.

    Because the whole shoot is straight out of the specops anti-terr primer: no niceties like "Hands Up! Throw down your weapon and lay on the floor". If you think the person is A Bad Guy and might have a weapon, you double-tap him and that is that. But just gazing upon DM should have been enough to rule out a bomb on his person.

    And if those operators were, in fact, SAS/SBS, then the questions are: What the hell were they doing on a police op? Did they have enough juice to countermand any orders and ROE? If so, why? And why was operational intelligence so bad, if they had taken over the op? If their OPINTEL was so bad, why did they forge ahead? After all, professionals know when they are entering into the classic and colorfully-named "Goat F***".

    A few questions about this that I have not been able to shake.

    One more thing: if this is a result of the purported Israeli ANTITERR training, then it is time for TPTB to take a close look at the quality of that training. Close and with a bilious eye.

  17. Timothy Slade

    fao 1865

    That is a facile argument.

    "Had Osman not existed" someone else would have done it.

    "or else been content with allowing his fellow citizens to exist in peace" - Only in Utopia (which literally translates to 'nowhere'). In the real world, where the police have to deal with thsi sort of thing, we want them to do it right, and to deal with the consequences of doing it wrong without resorting to deceit.

    "The people responsible for terrorism and it's consequences are not the police or government", except where the government of a country have fostered ill-will abroad by engaging in military adventurism.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Logically flawed?

    There are only, so far as I can see, two possibilities approaching a suicide bomber. He can be dead before the bomb goes off, or dead after it.

    The only way of even securing the possibility of no bomb going off is to ensure he's dead. After all, it's not like he's going to say, "I was going to blow myself up, but they've shot me. Drat!" is it?

    I therefore conclude instant death is the only logical possible response by the authorities. How anyone can say this approach is logically flawed is obviously using a different form of logic to any of the forms I'm aware of. Optimistic logic perhaps?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't blame the police - blame Hussein Osman

    That's a cop out. I spend decades telling my children that they can't use each other as an excuse for their own mis-behaviour. It wasn't my fault! He started it! Daaad :-(

    The intended function of the police is to deal with devient behaviour. If they can't handle terrorism, I expect better training and managment, not excuses.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The people responsible for

    "The people responsible for terrorism and it's consequences are not the police or government but the terrorists."

    Maybe. In a war, those in charge now call it "collateral damage" or "friendly fire", and Dubya and the Blairs (tony, ian, and gordon) are conducting a "war on terror" aren't they. So that makes it all right, doesn't it?

    "once or twice a week there would be a "Newsnight Special Report" "

    That was before Tony's Crony, Dirty Birty, took over at the BBC and basically privatised most of it (apart from management, which for some reason never gets outsourced to the lowest bidder), creating the Endemol-dependent empire we see today. Nation Shall Speak Dross Unto Nation, calls cost 50p per minute, Mr Wogan's Fee will be donated to a charity of his choice..

    Newsnight Special Report was also before Gilligan got the BBC into serious trouble by reporting that A Dossier had been sexed up. Which, history now shows, it had. But the BBC governors caved in to Blair there and then, and now we have a tame BBC and an ITN that couldn't care less about hard news. Paris Hilton in the jungle would be a different kettle of worms.

    Does Rory Bremner (and the Two Johns) deserve a mention here, as maybe the closest thing there is to an Opposition right now?

    Where's Mark Thomas when you need him? Oh, that's right, sh*t stirring wrt to the BAe/SFO Dodgy Dealings Kept Quite Quiet enquiry. Thanks Mark, someone's got to pin the barstewards down.

    Thank you, El Reg.

  21. Brett

    Thanks el Reg

    This case doesn't even get a mention in Australia. Apart from the shooting at the time. Its good to know that the register undersands that techies care about freedom and opression.

  22. Greg

    @1865 - You're an imbecile.

    By your reasoning, because Hitler was born, Dresden, the ensuing civilian-targeting campaigns, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not our fault or responsibility?

    I'd like to see how that holds up with Osama Bin Laden - presumably, because he existed, the entire War on Freedom (sorry, Terror) is his fault, as are the deaths in Iraq, etc, etc? Perhaps, then, you'd like to address the point that America set Bin Laden up? Or that they put Saddam Hussein in power?

    Tracking back by your reasoning - it's all America's fault! There's a shock.

    Your crap reasoning and black-and-white views simply don't work. You're an idiot.

  23. heystoopid

    No Justice Today !

    Alas blame the dumb cops and the even dumber mass propaganda media period for no justice for all !

    The simple facts of this case are truly self evident that the "peter principle" rules the roost in the MET !

    We know the handling of armed officers shooting of innocent civilians is flawed from A to Z from numerous past very fatal incidents prior to this unfortunate event and all those responsible for such travesties and literally got away with murder in all cases thus far !

    We know that both racists attitudes and vicious racial profiling runs very deep within the MET police force and is self evident from this case !

    We know from moments after the shooting that the MET went straight into hide the real facts mode and resorted to deliberate innuendo with planted false information to the mass media until the more intelligent astute cynical older reporters dug deeper into all the lies and inconsistencies given to them on a platter to expose the false propaganda for what it was just absolute pure unadulterated lies and a rather crappy/sloppy spur of the moment cover up attempt at every level from literally the Cabinet/Foreign Office/Home Office down !

    They were exposed for very deliberately trying to underpay the family of the correct compensation in collusion with the British Foreign Office legation officials in Brazil with the old sign this release document written in English with no correct Portuguese translation supplied which logically thus infers direct interference and collusion at the highest levels of the sitting government period !

    Flaws will remain unresolved and future tragic but avoidable incidents in which innocent public bystanders are slain by armed police officers will continue unabated !

    Sadly the the MET is currently run by one Sir Ian B@#!*&% Liar you pants are on fire ! Remember he could have held a press conference within thirty minutes of the shooting simply stating that an innocent man was shot and killed by armed police officers and we will be contacting his family in Brazil as soon as humanly possible. Yet he chose the craven cowards way of deliberate cover up to obscure all the real facts where possible ,allow the media to hang an innocent man with libel and slander! One could infer or conclude that he was under direct but deniable verbal orders from above !

    Alas the foolish mass media TV reporters must also bear the much of the evil shame of being reduced to a foolish propaganda mouth pieces not unlike Germany in the dark period from 1933 until 1946 !

    For true justice the commissioner if he was a truly honourable man should have resigned that very day the cover up was exposed as a lie ! Those that pulled the trigger be sent down to do hard time of ten to fifteen years on manslaughter(used illegal dum dums remember) and the balance of the entire team from " C. Dick" down reduced to the minimum rank on a permanent basis for the balance of their police careers and files marked unsuitable for use to carry fire arms under any circumstances as are prone to panic attacks !

    Justice will never ever be done in this case unfortunately , and only fools and idiots will continue to try to defend that which is indefensible !

    The twenty first century has become the new age of shallow propaganda first and foremost but at least the "intertubes" can tunnel through some of the lies!

    No justice today , although the family does have a fairly substantial concrete case to take all the big chain media outfits to the cleaners for libel and slander though!

  24. Keith Ealanta

    Preparations can lead to problems

    It seems to me that we're seeing more and more events where the police are extensively prepared for worst case scenarios, and where they (as a result) turn up expecting the worst. In Melbourne (Australia) predominantly peaceful protests were being approced by police who had spent the last 5 days in training on baton charges, riot control etc. When a large group of protesters stood (or even sat) peacefully, the police formed up and charged them.

    This process of preparing for the worst must be examined, and supplemented with significant training in how to recognise when the worst is not happening.

    In addition, ploice forces absolutely must be liable for their failures when the mis-assess situations. otherwise there is no reason for them to improve process. Fear of extra paper-work isn't enough.

    Any police officer who strikes or shoots an innocent bystander must never be allowed a weapon in the future. The ability to control your weapon and assess your actions is always down to the one with the weapon. You shoot a bystander, and you are out of the force. You are compensated by the force if their failures misinformed you, but you have to be responsible for your actions or the Nazi Guard argument "Just obeying order" starts to be used.

  25. Tam Lin

    At least the Brits have the BBC, and therefore some hope

    Not so in the USA. When Rigoberto Alpizar was shot in the same manner in a Florida airport, the US government refused to reveal the shooters, threatened the unshot passengers lest they tell anyone what they saw (yes, first with guns, then with jail), and never provided any public hearing, whatsoever.

    Most disturbingly, it was essentially uncovered by "American" news providers, to wit, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, NYT, Washington Post et al. In fact, it was best covered by the BBC.

  26. Henry Wertz


    "The people responsible for terrorism and it's consequences are not the police or government but the terrorists."

    I would say it's both.

    The root word of "terrorism" is terror. Clearly terrorists are responsible for actual terrorism. They do the actual killing and generation of terror.

    However, the secondary is when officials are terrorized, and come up with poorly thought through policies that are "tough on terrorists" or whatever but end up causing more harm and distress than they avoid.

    As it is in the US, while flying I'm far more anxious over getting delayed by the overly elaborate airport security (let alone the frequency of stuff being stolen from luggage), than I am about actually being blown up. Similarly if DHS ever implements the kind of hair-brained data mining stuff they want, I'll be much more concerned about people getting picked up or shot for "no reason" due to data mining false positivies than about people being blown up.

  27. Anton Ivanov
    Black Helicopters

    You are missing the point

    You are taking the Menezes affair out of context. 21/7 happened after 7/7. By that time the newspapers were already aware of the fact that the powers that be have left the 7/7 bombers of the hook more than once. The police wanted to show to the British public that it was doing something even if this meant executing someone for running while looking foreign (anyone who has tried running on Kings Cross with a post-holiday tan while carrying a backpack to catch his train knows what I mean).

    Couple of notes:

    1. Police situation rooms are supposed to have redundant voice and event recording. Are we talking about altering the actual voice recording? Why wasn't this payed more attention to?

    2. I have mixed more then enough things that go boom in my student years (I graduated with Chemistry before going to the dark side with IT). I am still to be convinced that shooting a suspect suicide bomber is safer than Tazering him. The Tazer does not generate enough current to activate most detonators. In fact I would like to see someone managing to blow an IED with a Tazer.

    Both of these were not covered ion depth during the HSE. At any other trial the prosecution would have gotten into these and gnawed on them until it had a conviction. In this case it skimmed over them without paying any particular attention and frankly the entire trial was quite obviously rigged to produce a small "slap on the wrist" instead of finding the truth.

  28. Shakje

    Re: The comment about the SAS

    I very much doubt that the SAS/SBS carried out the shooting, as everything says that if they had they would not have made such a shambles of it such as getting close to the subject, holding him down, and shooting him 7 times in the head. I fully believe that if the SAS were under orders to shoot the suspect they would get into the carriage, tap him in the head without getting that near him at all, check he was dead, then leave.

    While I fully agree that we cannot limit our forces by needlessly harassing them over every shooting, that means even more that we should follow them up on every innocent person that they kill. If we are to give them more freedom to operate at their discretion (as surely ground forces who are meant to deal with EXTREME situations must use) we absolutely MUST monitor and punish them when things go wrong, so that they do not use their discretion without reproach, and to prevent the use of deadly force in anything which does not completely fulfil criteria of an extreme situation. It does not matter whether they were acting on good faith, unless they were 100 per cent certain they should not have shot, and moreso, they should never have tried to deceive the public. In this alone they failed twice in their duty to protect the public.

    As for the BBC, sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't. It still has a lot of objective journalism, but it gets closer to corporate media every day, and the lack of objective reporting in our media really worries me, almost as much as the lack of depth in the two main political parties. I tend to read El Reg, The Week (as a compilation, makes much more interesting reading) and occasionally The Independent. I only really watch the news on TV when there's a Newsnight special, or something in particular I want to see, or if I'm bored after a film or before a programme starts.

  29. Mad Mike

    Who to blame?

    Who is to blame for this cock-up?

    It appears to me that those on the ground (whether surveillance or whatever) did the best they could. Some ran towards a suicide bomber or stayed close observing at great danger to themselves. Those that opened fire were told beyond doubt he was a suicide bomber and had been given dubious information beforehand about the bombers capability. Given the circumstances and information at their disposal, can you blame them? Whether they were police or special forces etc. is not really that relevant.

    To my mind, it looks like the communications were utterly confused and led to this whole incident. The operations rooms manifestly failed in its duty to provide good communications, clear information and timely decisions. Cressida Dick certainly did not make her decisions in good time and appeared ignorant of important information (such as the location of CO19 etc.) at least some of the time. So, for someone to blame, I think we should look no further than the people responsible for the operations room and its activities. Presumably, as the senior officer present, Cressida Dick must take responsibility for this. Her complete inability to make tactical decisions in a timely manner also highlights her.

    Additionally, the misinformation initially put out after the operation must also have come or been organised by the operations room. Later press releases would undoubtedly come from the press office etc.etc., but the initial few I suspect not. So, Cressida Dick also presided over false information being fed to the media.

    All in all, it rather looks like the people on the ground took a lot of personal risks to try and defend us, but the senior staff and those sitting comfortably in the operations room let them down dreadfully with the consequences we now know. Sir Ian Blairs position and that of a few of his senior officers should be in grave doubt. If he goes, Cressida Dick should also.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    "A few bad apples"

    Sorry, 20 years ago it was never a few. You had to expect that fully half of the Met would be on some sort of scam. Maybe more.

    Todays police are a lot more honest. Even if they are less willing to actually do fuck all when they are called out.

    8 pigging officers, 2 cars and a wagon just to arrest a drunk that was trying to see his ex against a restraining order. Thats the reality of todays policing. But at least they are not all bent.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Prosecutions and cattle prods.

    It seems to me that Blair (the Ian type) and possibly other senior Met officers should stand trial for attempting to pervert the cause of justice. Their post-event briefings were obviously fabricated out of whole optimism that their procedures were flawless, and have deeply coloured the nation's perceptions of the De Menezes killing from day one.

    In some ways this is not their fault as it is a natural reaction of the trial-by-media that they will always suffer after a police shooting. It's a faulty reaction though as they just show themselves to be duplicitous (which is a more heinous sin for those who are supposed to be upholding the law). They should spend more time on actually making systems that mean they can always hold their heads high and state accurately, honestly and demonstrably that Bad Things happened only because it was beyond the wit of Man to prevent them.

    "I was only following orders" was rejected as a defense by the Nuremburg trials for troops who, over an extended period, commited the most heinous crimes against humanity when they were patently illegal. It is not a blanket case for making a soldier who did something wrong while following orders guilty of stupidity or any given crime. An armed officer operates in an environment with large potential uncertainties and has to trust the information they are given in order to act swiftly.

    The shooters are not to blame for having been briefed that a concealable threat existed, nor for taking out a target that they had been told *was* that threat. They were acting in the seconds after they believed a threat had been positively identified and any delay could, given the information they had, have led to a larger loss of life.

    Tasers do not incapacitate as immediately or completely as the destruction of the hindbrain. The shooter(s) had been given an identified threat and had to deal with it expeditiously.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Command and defence .......

    As I understand the law of this land no one, no matter who they are can COMMAND another to kill someone, even in the military.

    It is the responsibility of the man pulling the trigger to ensure that he has the right to do so under his terms of engagement.

    This does not include institutionalised murder. As an ex cop if you can't stand the heat when you cock up get out of the kitchen OR do it right the first time.

    Well done to the EL REG for a reasoned article based on fact and the truth. Small wonder the powers that be don't feel trusted.

  33. Spleen

    Wrong basis

    We aren't really looking at the risk aversion issue from the right angle here.

    The decision to kill de Menezes was a calculated political risk. Imagine if he had been Osman. You can see the tabloid headlines now - "Hero cops save dozens by shooting terrorist". From that point on, the police would have a massive amount of brownie points which they could spend on anything they liked - no politician would have the balls to stop a sweeping expansion of police power in the name of "stopping more Osmans". Every cop armed, 90-day detention without trial, weakening the basis of conviction for terrorist offences from "beyond reasonable doubt" to on the "balance of probabilities" - the only limit is your imagination. We already know the British police are perfectly willing to intervene in politics, this would led them do it on an unprecedented scale.

    On the other hand, if they'd got it wrong and the guy wasn't Osman - well, absolutely nothing would happen. The police are the one profession allowed to use lethal equipment without any responsibility, unlike factory workers, taxi drivers, etc who can count of being sacked at least and prosecuted at worst if their negligence gets someone killed. There'd be a media frenzy, an investigation or two, and in the end no-one would be sacked. And so it has proved.

    From a risk perspective, shooting the foreign-looking man who was boarding a Tube train was a surefire bet for the police. As it happened, it didn't come off. But if you bet on red you don't cry if it happens to come up black.

  34. John F***ing Stepp

    Oh you guys.

    Are still scary as hell.

    Hey, I live in a country where 'guns' I mean 'scary might go off at any time' guns are carried by Law Enforcement and otherwise qualified (sane) people.

    And geeze, I haven't been shot yet.

    You guys have been screwed.


  35. John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: You are missing the point

    The communications in the operation weren't recorded. According to the Stockwell report recommendations: "Particular attention should be paid to ensuring that key briefings, strategic and tactical decisions are fully recorded or documented and in any event capable of audit."

  36. John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Wrong basis

    First, no one was doing anything as formal as calulating a risk. And second, if they were calculating a political risk, they would have to factor in the likely consequences of getting the wrong guy. That, if you were being cynical, would have to be in there too.

    Furthermore, if they HAD come to the conclusion that the damage of getting the wrong guy was negligible, v the kudos for getting the right one, then they'd be feeling pretty sick right now, wouldn't they? What with the Met's high command on the edge of the precipice...

  37. James Cranch


    This sounds like the description of the "Snafu Principle" in the Jargon File.

    One can imagine, if information on whether or not it's Osman has to pass through several people, each can change the information just a bit in accordance with their biases.

    "We're sure It's not Osman."

    "We think it's not him."

    "We reckon it's not him."

    "We think it's probably not him."

    "We're not sure that it's him."

    "We don't know if it's him."

    "We think it could be him."

    "We think it may well be him."

    "We think it's him."

    "It's him."

    Each means the same as the one before, near enough...

  38. Mad Mike

    @Anonymous Coward

    I completely concur that the person pulling the trigger must ensure they have the legal right to do so. In order to shoot, they must believe they or someone else is in immediate danger and that lethal force is the only option. Given what the shooter was told on this occasion and the circumstance they found themselves in, I believe he did think this. He believed they had a suicide bomber, with bomb who had to be stopped. He and others were in immediate danger from the bomb. The fact he was given incorrect information and therefore his belief is wrong is the fault of those supplying the information.

    Yes, nobody can tell him to open fire, but they can affect his beliefs etc. and therefore his likelihood of doing so by what they tell him.

  39. Alex

    @Logically flawed

    Actually, I'd say it's a shoot-to-kill policy that's logically flawed since it's trivially easy to make a dead-man switch. In this scenario, either the bomb goes off when the bomber chooses or when he's shot/killed. Horrible as it is, there is virtually no possibility of a bomber not detonating once his bomb has been armed.

    Maybe the police have good reason to think that terrorists don't use these; I certainly hope so. However, terrorists KNOW that the Met has a shoot-to-kill policy so there's yet further incentive to incorporate dead-man switches. If someone has evidence as to why the police don't make this assumption, it would set my mind at rest:

    @The ignorance of some commentators is becoming tiresome...

    Pointing out a logical flaw in policy is not pouring scorn on the officers' motivation or integrity any more than criticising the tactics of First World War generals diminishes the heroes that died executing those tactics.

  40. Spleen

    Re: Wrong basis

    Er, John, factoring in the likely consequences of getting the wrong guy is what I did in the third paragraph. To repeat, the likely consequences were exactly what's happened. A couple of inquiries, a lot of press attention, but no-one sacked, no-one disarmed, no-one prosecuted. The high command aren't on the edge of the precipice, Ian Blair doesn't look any more likely to go than before. He may go in the end, but one golden handshake is scarcely much of a price for a man's life and reputation.

    By risk assessment I don't mean that the high command sat down in a room and worked all that out. They didn't need to. Most risk assessment is carried out on a subconscious level, as it was here.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "By your reasoning, because Hitler was born, Dresden, the ensuing civilian-targeting campaigns, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not our fault or responsibility?"

    Yes, you've got it. Those who argue against actual facts with "what if, maybe" are onto a loser. Nagasaki and Hiroshima were bombed. Japan surrendered. The "it might not have been necessary" crowd are idiots who have absolutely no facts to back themselves up. Dresden was bombed. Civilians were killed. London and Coventry were bombed. Were the German citizens who carried on regardless of an evil, insane leader and claimed to be innocent responsible for Hitlers reign of terror? Yes, in part. Those who died fighting against this tyranny are the heroes, not those who died allowing it to continue.

  42. Mark

    Loss of armed police? Good.

    "You can't get firearms officers anymore because when they try and do their job, the get hounded by the public and through the courts. It's not worth it for them to try and defend us."

    Good, fewer guns on the street means fewer deaths.

    The police cannot (at the moment) be trusted with guns.

  43. John
    Thumb Up

    Israeli tactics

    Great article. Did you read Boris Johnson's DT op-ed piece on this last week?

    I don't know how well the Israeli training rubbed off on the Met. The BBC had a report (I think it was Panorama) closer to the time of the Stockwell shooting showing that Israeli security forces will attempt to visually identify the explosive device before shooting, and will even try to disarm the device/suicide bomber. Jean Charles was pinned down by one officer to be shot by another, so obviously no attempt was made by the firearms officers to see whether he had a bomb or not. That also implies the officers had a chance to look at Jean Charles's face before shooting, and if Osman really was public enemy number then one of those officers who would have been charged with shooting him should have had a good idea of what he looked like.

  44. Mark

    re: Not all bent...

    "8 pigging officers, 2 cars and a wagon just to arrest a drunk that was trying to see his ex against a restraining order. Thats the reality of todays policing. But at least they are not all bent."

    But the problem is that they will all close ranks to protect the few bad apples. That makes them equally culpable for that minorities' actions.

    I don't know about the Met but outside there was the low level corruption that meant that police mumped free beer and overlook the closing hours. Others may have been on the take, but you didn't hear about it.

    Now you hear about cockups like this and all the police are protecting each other. Outright lying if necessary to show no culpability of their compatriots.

    Now most people I know wouldn't cross the road to help a policeman getting hte crap kicked out of them. Which may be why 8 officers went out together...

  45. laird cummings

    @AC; You ain't seen risk adverse yet

    << "You can't get firearms officers anymore because when they try and do their job, the get hounded by the public and through the courts. It's not worth it for them to try and defend us." >>

    If they weren't involved in the totally preventable summary executions of inoffensive civilians, this wouldn't be a problem.

    The police are the problem here, and if you're of the police, you need to be taking a hard look at yourself, your peers, and your organization. In this *particular* case, *everyone* fucked up *except* the victim.

    Even the shooters (the most innocent of all the official parties in this case, odd as that sounds) must wear some blame for the totally slipshod manner in which they mustered up and reported for duty that day. Terrorists may be on the loose, and there's a stake-out and intercept operation on for the day? What the hell were the CO19 people doing wandering in like it was a normal day at the office, showing up late for their assignment in the team, and playing catch-up across the city? The surveilance plods certainly could get to work on time; why couldn't CO19 do the same?

    Had CO19 been Johnny-on-the-spot, as they ought to have been, de Menzies could've been intercepted well before he was in such a official-panic-inducing locale, and might well be alive today.

  46. Luther Blissett

    Stop dog on no account stop corporal

    Or if you're not familiar with the WWI original - here's the 21st century version - Eats shoots and leaves.

    Kudos to James Cranch - nice example of group think being infected by paranoia.

    Now exactly who would that mysterious Inspector Charlie be, what was he briefing, and who _wasn't_ he briefing?

    Israelis training the Met....? If you knew the first thing about the Mossad MO you might be inclined to say this is a very strong explanatory factor in the whole depressing and sordid affair.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dead man switch

    "Actually, I'd say it's a shoot-to-kill policy that's logically flawed since it's trivially easy to make a dead-man switch. In this scenario, either the bomb goes off when the bomber chooses or when he's shot/killed. Horrible as it is, there is virtually no possibility of a bomber not detonating once his bomb has been armed.

    Maybe the police have good reason to think that terrorists don't use these; I certainly hope so..."

    Dead man switch: trivially easy to make. Less easy to make reliable. If you've got a dead man switch "live" you're at risk of premature (wasteful) detonation because of things like jostling, trips, distraction. Keeping focus on a DMS will be potentially likely to draw attetion because, for example you never take your hand out of your pocket. You don't want something like that impeding your transportation of the bomb. Sure have a DMS option so that in the final phase you can switch to that mode ensuring detonation even if people in the immediate proximity try and prevent you, but getting from storage to target you probably don't want any such thing.

    A more technical device like one wired to a heartbeat/pulse monitor would be less likely to go off accidentally, but every element you put into a detonation circuit is another point of failure (if it's a wireless link it's susceptible to spoofing/jamming/failure; if it's wired to the fuse, that has to be in a bag that's never set down or a "vest") and the Jihadi terrorists so far haven't shown particular expertise in bomb-building.

    And in the end, if you can't stop the bomb going off, you can't stop it going off. But if the best chance of stopping it going off is to blow the Medulla Oblongata of the suspect out all over the window, that's what you've got to do.

    Failures in intelligence and control as certainly occurred in De Menezes' case certainly need accountability to be demonstrated. Cressida and Blair and any shitwit that designed/puked those operational procedures need to get sacked and prosecuted for at least reckless endangerment and possibly conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

  48. John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @AC; You ain't seen risk adverse yet

    It's worth considering the system that leads to the 'hounding' of firearms officers after a police shooting. Ordinarily it's the actions of the firearms officers in the last few minutes that are focussed on, and the command chain and circumstances that put them into that position aren't given any attention at all. This is actually pretty convenient for the management, because the 'problem' is isolated to a couple of guys, and whether or not they might have made a critical error of judgment. Their 'hounding' could therefore be seen as a necessary part of the process, to some extent caused by the police hierarchy's reluctance to have its own role put under the microscope.

  49. laird cummings

    @John Lettice

    << "Their 'hounding' could therefore be seen as a necessary part of the process, to some extent caused by the police hierarchy's reluctance to have its own role put under the microscope." >>

    That's an entirely plausible take on things. In which case, "taking a hard look at... ...your organization" becomes the operative portion of my above statement.

    Note that my above post was aimed at someone whom has at least implied that they belong to law enforcement, and the thrust of my post was aimed at the police, not at the media or any other organization.

    I'm still sickened by the apparent ineptitude and lackadasical approach that CO19 took in preparing for this operation, but as I also noted above, the actual shooters were the least reasponisible for the disaster, IMO. Mind you, they bear culpability, but not nearly so much as the supervisors do, and only to the extent that they performed below par. My disgust at Cdr. Dick's slipshod leadership, the crap organizational structure of the operation, and Blair's mendacity is much greater than any which I hold for the officers at the scene.

    Obviously, the real problem was from above. The Met heirarchy was clearly unprepared to handle such operations in a properly-managed fashion, and seems to have utterly failed in their trust. In as much as the shooters have been extremely well-protected to-date, I must say that 'hounding' the shooters is pretty much not the issue here. Hounding the Met, OTOH, most certainly *has* happened, and the cries for blood from the media have been pretty much shotgunned at the entire organization, whichever portion was most easy to reach. The armed officers need not feel that they've been singled out for special attention. Indeed, the entire Met has been liberally spattered by this mess. Which is as should be expected, even if not entirely fair.

  50. Matthew Brown

    A simple problem, by the looks of it...

    I like this coverage - very rational and clear El Reg.

    Anyway... the problem is as has been stated, communication. When I was younger I'd often be asked by my father to tell him if our way was clear when moving out of a very busy (and thus difficult to see) street after visiting relatives. What he said about wording has stuck with me to this day: - If you say "no" it could be heard as "go", and vice versa. The only solution is to say "stop" or "clear". - Now if this kind of common sense mentality had been drilled into the Met Police they would've used the term "negative" (clear meaning, even if aurally distorted) instead of "definitely not our man" (easily misheard if one word is clipped). Equally they would have said "confirmed" or "positive" when informing their command centre if they had indeed spotted their target.

    It sounds simple, but from what I've read here and elsewhere this kind of thinking was absent on the day. We must also ask why, given the clearly heightened state of alert they were on, why it took CO19 so long to intercept JCD. He was hardly moving like Flash Gordon, and they were supposed to be on some form of ready response.

    Finally while I understand that the police have a difficult job to do, I do not accept the premise that one innocent man's life is a fair price to assuage individual officer's fears of under performance. The Tube is not a battlefield, collateral damage is not acceptable, and if they can't accept that they should sign up for Her Majesty's armed forces. Other good men would be willing to take their place.

  51. Anonymous Coward

    @ "There are only, so far as I can see, two possibilities approaching a suicide bomber ..."

    "There are only, so far as I can see, two possibilities approaching a suicide bomber. He can be dead before the bomb goes off, or dead after it.

    "The only way of even securing the possibility of no bomb going off is to ensure he's dead. After all, it's not like he's going to say, "I was going to blow myself up, but they've shot me. Drat!" is it?

    "I therefore conclude instant death is the only logical possible response by the authorities. How anyone can say this approach is logically flawed is obviously using a different form of logic to any of the forms I'm aware of. Optimistic logic perhaps?"

    Can you put that in your will/final documents? It'll save your family some time in court, to make your stance known should you ever be SHOT DEAD because the police think you are someone you aren't?

    Because, as you said, it is better for the police to not take the chances.

  52. Mark Rainer

    Re:- Dead man switch...

    sure it's trivially easy to make and although it's less easy to make reliable, they don't seem to be too bothered by poor reliability. Considering possible malfunctions brings (as Douglas Adams might have said) a new meaning to the term 'fail-safe' that we haven't previously come across. It may be that the safest way to stop such a device from detonating is what they call a controlled explosion - actually a few hundred ccs of water propelled into the wiring at supersonic speed. This can only be done from point-blank range so it may require insane volunteers.

    Someone hereabouts also suggested that a tazer was less likely to fire a detonator than most people think. I'm sure that's true but again, a tazer detector would be trivially easy to make.

    As to problems of attitudes within the Met, I certainly don't think that the guy who pulled the trigger needs to be singled out for special blame but I have to admit to some disappointment at learning that he's still carrying a gun. Neither do I think that Sir Ian Blair's resignation would be a particularly good thing for two reasons: firstly he was only in post for six months before DeMenezes was killed - having taken over some time after the institution of the shoot-to-kill policy; secondly I can't imagine that any likely successor would be an improvement in any worthwhile way.

    Am I the only one who is annoyed to hear that officers who carry firearms loaded with Dum-dum bullets have been "specially trained"? Disregarding the Mossad thing, WTF does that mean? Who trains the trainers? Does the syllabus include recognising a suicide bomb?

  53. Anonymous Coward

    One other point, not wholly relevant

    Yep, they held him down and shot him 7 times in the head. Why did it need 7 bullets, btw? And how come there's very little said about the 8th bullet, which from a distance of... holding him down, managed to miss the head and hit his shoulder. Special training? I'll say...

  54. Brett

    hmm add on the side

    Other white papers

    "Hitting the moving target of opperational excelence"

    Oh the AddBot has a sence of irony.

  55. david Silver badge

    "Tazer does not generate enough current to activate most detonators."

    Not this furphy again!

    M18 Taser: 133mA IRMS, 1.76 J/pulse

    M26 Taser: 162mA IRMS, 1.76 J/pulse.

    That's well over the safe limit for most detonators.

  56. Hollerith

    Excitable boys (and girls)

    I've been in a crisis (suspected gunman) and have seen people ramp themselves up, get self-important, mis-hear, want a drama, get swept up intheir own drama, and everyone gets excited and sloppy. Police like to *do* things, take actions, and in combatting terrorism it's mostly a case of listening to snitches. This is not fun. Running around with guns shouting into two-way radioes is fun. Being in a command centre is fun. Weird fun, but fun in the way soldiers can love battle. So it seems that everyone got carried away, got rattled, and did something bad.

    The worst of it was it instant heaping of lies onto the dead Mr Menezes' head. We were left for a long time thinking that he ran, vaulted the barrier, was wearing a suspiciously bulky coat and so on. These were all deliberate lies. This is where the police truly showed that they could not be trusted. I wouldn't give them a water pistol, let alone anything with bullets in it. The only guy who has *really* stopped a 'terrorist' in his tracks was that chap at the Glasgow airport. No command centres there, just a 'no way, mate' and a tackle.

  57. Simon Lyon
    Thumb Up

    Always enjoy your reasoned take on "security" matters

    As someone who in a past life had a semi-professional involvement in things that go bang (mostly the handheld variety) and things that go boom (generally attached to doors and doorframes or thrown inside after said obstacles have been removed) ...

    It's great to read stories on these matters from someone who understands that the words "gun" and "bomb" mean very little unless you can explain exactly what you're talking about. Which the "meeja" seldom do.

    It's exactly the same as most stories involving drugs: "He was a drug user."

    Fine. Opiates, stimulants, psychedelics, cannabinoids, steroids, what? A couple of lines at the weekend or going the whole Pete Docherty?

    Same thing with your great deconstruction of the "liquids on planes=bombs" debacle. "So exactly what *kind* of bomb could, allegedly, be produced."

    Keep up the good work!

  58. Simon Lyon

    Mark Rainer - the "dum dum bullets" issue is something of a red herring

    The point of "expanding ammunition/rounds" - dum-dums in the vernacular - is not, as many people believe, that they kill people better. And are therefore indicative of a shoot-to-kill policy.

    The point is that they deliver more instantaneous impact to the target they're aimed at - increasing the chances that said target will immediately lose interest in what they were doing and fall over.

    It's about overloading the nervous system - a-la tasers.

    It's the flipside of another misconception - that "fully-jacketed" rounds are used by armed forces because they're more "humane".

    In an armed conflict, it's much better (from a logistical standpoint) to only wound, NOT kill, as many of the enemy as possible. Thus taking them out of the fighting while causing the enemy to use up valuable resources caring for them.

    Expanding rounds on the other hand are not intrinsically intended to kill/not-kill, wound/not-wound - they're intended to immediately "stop" the target.

    I'm not excusing the entire encyclopedia of screwups that the led to Mr Menezes death in any way. But, IMHO, the choice of ammunition wasn't one of them. Expanding ammo is precisely the right choice if you aim to instantly shut down someone with their finger on a button.

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