Sunday, July 24, 2005

Shoot to kill?

The media today is full of coverage of how the police shot dead an innocent man on Friday. At such times it is easy to bash the police. But one needs to imagine a reversal of the situation. The police followed leads derived from the bomb sites and found this man's address. A man comes out on a summer day wearing a winter coat. They follow him and when they confront him he bolts for the tube, jumping the barriers and hurtling towards the platform. Had he indeed been a suicide bomber, and given both recent events and the man's behavior the police clearly had strong grounds for believing that, then the consequences could have been catastrophic.

Armed police officers frequently have to make very difficult decisions in the heat of the moment. This incident is not like confronting someone they believe is carrying a gun. It is like confronting someone they believe does not care about their own life and who will not back down if confronted, but instead is more likely to detonate. The police have to act quickly to protect us. Sometimes they get it wrong and an innocent dies. But if they get it wrong and fail to stop a suicide bomber then the consequences escalate.

Many are already calling for a re-evaluation of police tactics. But some are being rash and demanding an end to a shoot to kill policy. I would like to know how one is supposed to stop a potential suicide bomber when confronted with one. Tackling the grievances that generate such monsters is all well and true but that is not a viable alternative solution at the apparent intended point of detonation.

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