WishStream Daily

Politics, News, Guns, Stealth, Sex with some Rock'n Roll. You mother wouldn't like it and neither did mine. Currently featuring the "Which Blair Project".

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Police Rules of Engagement ROE

I suggested in my last posting that Met Police commissioner Blair should stop messing around with 'policies' and issue 'Rules of Engagement' or ROEs for police firearms officers similar to those given to soldiers. I'm delighted to read in the Daily Telegraph this morning that a Freedom of Information document reveals that Police Blair in fact wrote to the Home Office Permanent Secretary asking for this very thing, just after the Stockwell tube shooting.

The Commissioner still however remains confused about shoot-to-kill, imagining that there are other lesser types of shooting - 'shoot-to-maim' possibly, or "shoot-to-incapacitate", and his now famous "shoot-to-kill-in-order-to-protect".

The reality remains as it has always been - that once you open fire, you must expect that you are going to kill the target - a very serious decision. If you attempt to 'aim off', it's likely you will miss, and then you might hit an innocent person, either directly in the confusion, or via a riccochet.

For incapacitation, British police now use the US-made "Tazer" stun gun - which could itself kill somebody with a heart complaint, or through causing a suspect to fall awkwardly. For reliable maiming, a truncheon is as good as anything.

For every police officer, using the appropriate minimum amount of force for a particular situation is a vital judgement they must be ready to make at any time. For firearms officers, this is even more important, for once they arrive on the scene, everybody assumes the situation is likely to be life-threatening for somebody.

But under the law, even firarms officers are required to use minimum force, which is a vital aspect of the trust between British police and the public - a relationship that simply does not exist between the police and public of most other countries.

This trust is what ultimately will defeat terrorism in the United Kingdom. But we also learned today that Police Blair has tried to delay the IPCC investigation into the Stockwell shooting - to protect police anti-terrorist operations. He risks eroding this vital trust, which is the reason why announcing some kind of result to the Stockwell shooting investigation should not be delayed any longer.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Shoot-to-Kill Nonsense

Police Blair’s’ having a busy day - today Friday.  There’s his Kate Moss letter to the Times (qv), and now he’s calling for a public debate of the shoot-to-kill policy for suicide bombers. All this on the exact same day as the parents of Jean Charles de Menezes, the innocent man blasted out of existence by police at Stockwell Tube station on July 22, met investigators from the Independent Police Commission.  

I’ve already discussed the remarks made by PB and his predecessor Lord Stevens following Mr Menezes’ killing, when there was no question that the pumping of bullets into the heads of suspected suicide bombers was a vital measure to protect the travelling public.  

But it has taken the visit of Mr Menezes’ poor, grieving parents, their sad faces on the front pages of our newspapers, to make PB call for somebody to suggest how “we should engage in some form of public debate about use of lethal force in a democracy.”

This convolution of wording is PB’s not mine.  You will recall at the time of the shooting, PB had no reservations about the need to kill suicide bombers.  Now he wants a debate on the whole issue of the use of lethal force.  

But why now, and not a few months ago when PB would have known for certain that Mr Menezes was an innocent man?   Answer: because PB likes to be in the newspapers, and wants to be seen to be seen doing something caring and positive to counter the negative PR of the de Menezes family visit.

And surely this call – if it should be made at all – is what the Home Secretary is for, or the Shadow Home Secretary, or some other politician?    

But this whole debate about “Shoot-to-Kill” is fatuous. Getting hit anywhere by a police bullet is likely to be lethal, and the normal target is the chest.  Headshots if anything are less lethal as it’s a smaller target, and from various angles, the face, jaw and sinuses can be a bigger area than the brain pan.  That’s why game like deer are always shot just behind the shoulder.  

The police “Operation Kratos” is not “shoot-to-kill” per se as that’s what the security forces have always done, rather a senior police officer, civil servant, police authority  ‘policy’ document apparently drafted by the Association of Chief Police Officers.  It’s only purpose is to demonstrate that senior officials have got an agreed line when the shit hits the fan.  This ‘policy’ does not help the policemen on the ground who’ve got to make the split-second decisions that lead to people being shot – or bombs being detonated.

What’s needed are clearly understood “ROEs” – the vital ‘rules of engagement’ drawn up by senior Army commanders before every military operation, to guide, protect and authorise every soldier involved.  ROE’s can be published openly, so that members of the public will know the circumstances in which troops will open fire – as they do in Northern Ireland.  Having shadowy ‘policy documents’ discussed by officials with absolutely no experience of  the use of firearms or the nightmare of ground operations is a serious copout – if you’ll forgive my pun.

Police Blair Kate Moss Cruelty

Police Blair (Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner) is upset that the media have reported his involvement in the Daily Mirror’s happy slappy attack on Kate Moss.  

Writing from his HQ at New Scotland Yard, "Broadway, London", Police Blair has got a letter published in today’s’ Times, denying he “suggested that police may call in social services because of Ms Moss’s alleged drug behaviour.”    

I’ve already mentioned how PB was very happy to boast of his part in the decision to investigate the Mirror’s ‘Cocaine Kate’ story to a conference of police superintendents, doubtless imagining how impressed they’d be with his truly global influence. Calling for a public debate on shoot-to-kill one moment, sorting out Kate Moss and the nations’ coke problem the next…. heady stuff for an ordinary copper.

But maybe PB didn’t know Kate Moss had a daughter?  And maybe he didn’t realise that if you instigate a police investigation of this sort where a minor is concerned, the social services are almost inevitably going to be involved too – and that it’s absolutely right that they should be involved?

Police Blair finished his letter saying: “I have not said anything of the sort and I cannot imagine issuing such a cruel and gratuitous remark.”  

But it wasn’t just a Remark, it was a Decision – to investigate one particular person who happens to be Kate Moss. And if the Met Police Commissioner doesn’t understand the implications of his decisions – as I suspect he does not – then we’re all in trouble.  I do however agree with PB’s use of the word  “cruel”.  It was cruel – and unseemly – for him to have relished being involved in the Kate Moss take-down.  

The best decision PB could make would be to keep away from the media, or stand down and let somebody a bit more savvy and bit less impressed with the sound of his own voice do the job.  

Thursday, September 29, 2005

People Watching

People usually know when they’re being watched. Maybe it’s a natural defence mechanism from those carefree days being hunted on the savannah. But if like a python from Jungle Book you are watching from above, even though people become uneasy sensing your predatory thoughts, they rarely look up.  

I live on the second floor of a terraced house in a quiet curve of square town houses and apartment blocks. There are trees, grass, the distant hum of traffic, and the distinctive high-pitched sound of well-educated girls playing hockey at the local grammar school.  

The second floor is a good vantage point for the sport of people watching.  

In the corner of the cul de sac, there’s Walnut Woman who’s really too old to wear power suits with very short, tight skirts; her legs get suddenly narrower above the knee and her arse is enormous.  (That’s what happens if you don’t take proper exercise – be warned.) She’s got big, expensive hair and struts like a call-girl.  The lady next door was rather nice, but was driven out after a bitter feud with Walnut Woman over their respective on-street parking.  The house is now let to students who we all hoped would park bicycles on Walnut Woman’s grass and hold wild parties all night keeping her awake with squealing, rugby songs and the rhythmical thumping of bed heads against the dividing wall.  Sadly, students today seem more intent on getting jobs than shagging and upsetting the neighbours.  The Resident’s Association are considering starting a fund to buy them a few crates of Strongbow and Chilean chardonnay.  

Opposite, in an end-of-terrace with a high mileage Mercedes four-door parked outside, there’s a lady whose been trying to sell for the last two months.  No joy.  So she changed estate agents, which meant the signs were replaced.  The house next door us is for sale too, and  belongs to a rich Asian guy who reputedly keeps pads all over the world, so it’s empty, the garden’s overgrown and everybody parks in his driveway ‘cos we’ve got Residents Parking and rampant traffic wardens.  We’re just out of the city centre, so commuters who can’t be bothered to pay for a Park-and-Ride ticket use up our parking spaces then sneak out onto the main road to catch a bus.  

None of the houses here are selling even though it’s a posh-ish area, so the lady’s taken in lodgers.  At least that’s my theory.  Maybe it’s a B&B. Or that could be next door. Anyway, every morning at eight an old bloke with a bag that looks like it contains his lunch box, slips out of the house. It’s probably my imagination, but he seems a bit furtive.  It’s a university town, so this guy ought to be a junior lecturer or research fellow.  But he’s not.  I have my theories.

Then around ten-thirty, one of the second floor windows opens (from a room just like mine) and another geezer sticks his head out and proceeds to smoke two ciggies one after the other, taking the next suck before he’s breathed out the smoke from the previous one.  This is world-class smoking. He flicks the butt of the first one well away onto the grass in front of the house next door and lights up another.  I’ve never seen such desperate smoking.  

This guy, who is tall, dried-out thin and casual with floppy medium-length hair, sometimes leaves the house, but doesn’t get his fags out until the tree is between him and the front door – just in case the lady’s watching him go.  He needs to be living there even though it obviously doesn’t suit him.  Maybe he burned down the last house he was in?  Accidentally.  He’s smoking tabs not spliffs, so we’re not watching a good time being had, but cancer and serious stress.  

There’s a few more people to tell you about, but that will have to wait for another day.  

Labour's Protest Tradition

Here in the UK, our government are holding their conference, where they get all the party faithful together and preach at them with the aim of galvanising them into political action for the next six months or so.  In the evenings, being Labour Party blokes and blokettes, they drink vast amounts of warm beer and whatever Labour Party females throw down their necks (if it isn’t beer, it’s port and lemon).  

Well in fact I’m quite wrong here. I was thinking about a picture in one of the daily newspapers today, of our illustrious deputy prime minister half asleep during the speeches looking like a walrus, and I was imagining what feats of social excess has lead to this mighty exponent of the drinking arts nodding off.  

Actually, as Mr John Prescott is the Prime Ministers’ token old-fashioned, Old Labour vote earner, he was probably suffering from terminal boredom.  His New Labour colleagues prefer tapas to pork scratchings, and bottles of Mexican lager (plus slice of lime wedged into the neck) to draught Double Diamond, and probably actually go to bed for a few hours.  

So anyway, this art house celebration of cleverness came to a premature climax on Wednesday while Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was putting everybody right on the obvious benefits of the conflict in Iraq. But party member Walter Wolfgang aged 82 wearing a claret shirt and blue suit, objected audibly to Straw’s  throw away comments about the good job the government was doing in Iraq (he shouted “Nonsense”), and was set upon by security guards.  Another party member objected to this, and so in a surprisingly violent scene involving a gang of fat men per delegate, both were ejected.

In his speech yesterday, Prime Minster Tony Blair apologised, telling everybody that they must remember the security guards were all volunteers.  Ah…. so that’s all right then.  If they’d been professionals, then…. well what exactly?  It would never have happened?  It would have worse because it would have made it obvious that  the security men had been briefed to silence any disloyalty?  That volunteers giving of their time so generously mustn’t be criticised…?  That mindless bouncers from the local nightclubs had to be forgiven because they were party members?  I give up.

What it does however show is that the volunteers running this years’ Labour Party conference were not going to allow any dissent to sour the atmosphere and distract media attention from the New Labour message of hope, achievement and progress. Dissent, protest and accountability are an Old Labour tradition, out of place here in the stainless steel wine bars of the New Labour creed – leaving people like unfashionable and gay protester Peter Tatchell out in the cold, and old dog Prescott sleeping beside the fire with a stomach full of brown ale.

But this has all happened before. Three years ago at the London School of Economics, Blair had a young protester Iain Wilson wrestled out of a meeting packed with party faithful, as our PM attempted to argue that the Iraq crisis should not distract from the drive to improve public services at home.  Mr Wilson was attempting to say that Blairs’ plans to go to war against Iraq were not supported by the electorate and that the result would be chaos in the Middle East.  

Wilson was right, and Blair should have listened. Instead, as Wilson was hustled away the PM told him he wouldn’t have been able to make a protest in Saddam’s Iraq.  Mr Wilson later told BBC Breakfast that the way he was dragged away was not much different from the way he might have been treated in Iraq.  Maybe we could do with a regime change too?  Is there anybody there?

A Policeman to the Stars

Met Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair has pissed me off yet again.... I'm behind the curve and I admit it. I wasn't following the Kate Moss story because I think Pete Docherty's a prat, Babyshambles a joke and the poor girl needs something unfortunate to happen to open her eyes to this.

It's a very familiar story. She's been a super model since she was 12 or some such ludicrous age, so as we do with footballers who have equally lost their youth to fame, we should give her some leeway. She's not exactly the first beautiful young girl to go out with some waster who seems exciting and dangerous - but who in reality is a pain in the arse. I've got a beautiful young girl in my life who at the moment is going through hell and a lot of her hard-earned cash getting rid of a drunken Irishman. It's beginning to piss me off more than a little.

But Kate Moss the model is reliable and professional. Those Corrine Day pics of her in Vogue in the 90's looking pale and wan were created by the make-up artist, as part of the so-called "heroin chic" look. You don't continue at the top of that business for 20 years without being reliable - and most super models smoke to keep their weight down....

So why am I now concerned about Kate Moss?

Because that icon of reticence Met Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, addressing all the thrusting young stars of the future at the Police Superintendents Conference in Warwickshire, boasted that he's decided to launch an investigation into Kate Moss's activities: "We have to look at the impact of this kind of behaviour on young people, and if there is evidence we should do something about it", he told them.

What the fuck has some dodgy newspaper story got to do with Police-Blair, apart from giving him another opportunity to get his name into the papers? Who made the complaint that led to the police getting involved? Was there actually a complaint? Probably not. This is Page Four, tabloid bollocks, and senior police officers should simply not be involved.

How about Police-Blair getting himself involved with the people who supply cocaine - not to the rich prats who can afford it in Mayfair, but to the poor kids in the heart-sink estates of his principality. Or better still, how about leaning on his experts to think up some real initiatives so these kids have got other more positive, useful things to occupy their time?

I hope Police-Blairs' audience, superintendents who have to send officers out onto the mean streets to do the dirty work, asked him in the Q&A session that usually follows such lectures, how he imagined his decision and the subsequent investigation, would help the fight against organised drugs crime. He'll have shrugged off any implied criticism... first a knighthood, next the House of Lords. A senior policeman's lot can be very happy indeed.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Pray for a Silent Knight

In the UK we don't get to vote for our senior law enforcement officers - as do local electors in the USA. In fact we don't get any kind of say in who runs our various police forces, even though they are regional and the guys in charge are autonomous.

British policemen are characterised as talking in a ridiculously constipated fashion, using big words ponderously like they're giving evidence in court. Sadly, the stereotype exists, and despite extensive media training, most senior police officers would be better off keeping well away from press conferences.

We've seen this all too clearly over the past few months as the Met Police clamp down on terrorists. When Mr Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead while allegedly trying to escape from anti-terrorist officers at Stockwell tube station, Commissioner Sir Ian Blair went in with both feet declaring the shooting to have been part of an "expanding anti-terrorist operation". The previous Met commissioner Lord Stevens, equally keen to be reported, said that suicide bombers could only be stopped by destroying their brains "utterly" by shooting them "with devastating power to the head".

Now that poor Mr Menezes has been shown to be completely innocent of either suspicion or even unwise behaviour, Lord Stevens has wisely gone to ground. However the current commissioner Sir Ian Blair continues to say stupid things to the BBC; his latest today being that he had considered resigning, but decided it was better that he stayed to continue to help defend Britain from terrorism. Interviewer Stephen Sackur then asked him if he would resign if condemned by the ongoing IPCC enquiry, to which he gave the astonishing Tony Blair-like response: " that would depend upon the level of condemnation.

Dear God! Police-Blair knows what happened by now, and if he doesn't he should be sacked. Instead, he's waiting, like Politician-Blair has done on several occasions in the past, to see how much of it comes out of the IPCC enquiry - or in proveable leaks by honest police officers who can't stand what's going on.

And as for his selfless determination not to be swayed from the fight against terrorism, Police-Blair is making it quite clear that he believes his efforts to be vital, and himself to be irreplaceable. Does he imagine that this battle will crumble without him - that his officers will suddenly lose their motivation, direction and morale without his wise guidance shaping their every thought?

Do us a favour guv. Shut up and do the job, and leave the politicking for politicians. Chief constables with high media profiles are a pain for everybody else, fit only for the making of tyre adverts - and then for only a short while after retirement.