Sunday, July 24, 2005

Shoot To Kill! Great. Now, What?

From Friday's edition of the Guardian:

As he got on to the train I looked at his face. He looked sort of left and right, but he basically looked like a cornered rabbit, a cornered fox. He looked absolutely petrified and then as I say he sort of tripped, but they were hotly pursuing him.

They couldn't have been no more than two or three feet behind him at this time and he half tripped and was half pushed to the floor and the policeman nearest to me had a black automatic pistol in his left hand. He held it down to the guy and unloaded five shots into him.

An innocent man was murdered in London on Friday morning.

Shot five times in the head while he was lying on the floor, far from being a threat to anyone.

Shot by police officers.

His crime? To have been mistaken for someone else. To have been frightened and subsequently to have run away when he was chased by people in plain clothes, people he didn't know. To have been hounded and herded to the underground coach. To have tripped and fallen to the floor where he lay helpless.

Where he lay helpless until the police officers reached him and shot him in the head five times.

A tragedy, some will say, a necessary evil, others will contend, a regrettable sacrifice to methods that insure the safety of the public, a good portion of people in official positions are likely to support. If you've read previous rants of mine, you know how I feel about so-called necessary sacrifices: bullshit. You CANNOT weigh the worth of lives against life. To do so is repellant. Revolting.

The method of shooting to kill comes, unsurprisingly enough, from Israel. Okay, regardless of what I think of Israelian methods, importing this to Europe is plain madness. Are police officers now instructed to shoot to kill anyone suspect? Is the definition of "suspect" wearing a coat and having a backpack? Great. Guess what?

Whenever I travel, I'm a potential suicide bomber. Well, yeah, I do have a backpack, and I usually have a coat or a jacket on my back, even in Summer, because I always travel with one, and having it on me saves place inside my luggage or my backpack!

And, guess another thing: if a group of officers in civvies start chasing me, I WILL RUN. No, I won't let myself be grabbed and manhandled by people who wear no uniform and whom I can't identify as proper agents of the law.

It gets better: imagine for a moment that a petty thief is chased down by those officers. He has a backpack where he stores his catch of the day, and he has good reason not to want to be apprehended. Yet, does this thief deserve to be shot in the head? I would think not. Of course, I'm not a raving tabloid op/ed columnist demanding "shoot them all". Another bit of niceness, that one. And just WHERE do you think calls to hatred and murder will lead? To peace and happiness ever after?


A man is dead.

An innocent has been murdered.

Nothing will ever undo that evil.

Nothing will ever help the terror that crushed that poor man, or his pain upon being murdered.

Nothing will ever help the loss of his family and friends.

At least, the British police has publicly recognized this tragic misconduct. Now, it's time to rethink methods and tactics, and to stop with the cowboy, shoot-to-kill attitude. The last thing to do is to strive for justification and go about claiming it's all the terrorists' fault. No, sir. No way. Far too easy.

We show our metal, we show our ethics and our values when we decide on investigation methods, on instructions and procedures. We are responsible for the way in which we, as an embodiment of the law or the state, choose to react to threats such as terrorism. If we can't find the strength to remain ourselves, to hang on to who we are, to what has always defined us, then we will inevitably lose ourselves in the long run. If we allow a shoot-to-kill policy, then we deny the most basic of the principles upholding our societies: due process. Anyone is innocent until proven guilty. That requires arrest, charges, and a trial. Nobody is guilty by default, or deserving of death by default. If we find that shooting mere suspects in the head is acceptable, then the terrorists have already won.

So, no.

No, you don't instruct police officers to aim for the head, get the suspect dead and ask questions later.

Not in Europe.

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