The pending Olympics are ‘an excuse for normalising the deployment of Action-men and women packing more heat than soldiers in Afghanistan’.
[Image courtesy of Trojan631 via flickr.com ©©]
Oh, dear, somebody at the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police has been given the keys to the dressing-up box. This season’s new-look copper has been unveiled and, with the Olympics only weeks away, so, too, has the perfect excuse for normalising on our streets the deployment of Actionmen and women packing more heat than serving soldiers in Afghanistan.
To recap on the event which may have helped change the look of our police for good; an individual denied a Heavy Goods Vehicle Licence enters the premises of a Heavy Goods Vehicle Licence training company with gas cannisters strapped to his person and takes four hostages.
Not a scenario to be taken lightly, I grant you. And had I been among the hostages I’d have wanted a swift and effective end to my distress.
But how best to engineer such an outcome? Well, what about some quick thinking, and the immediate installation of some kind of hostage negotiator who knows how this sort of stand-off generally unfolds. And, just in case, two or three snipers strategically placed nearby.
But no. This was clearly a job for Robocop kitted out with balaclava, paramilitary fatigues, two (yes two) handguns, one machine gun, body armour and grenades. And not just one of these masked gunslingers but dozens of them brought in not to deal with a major terrorist threat but to coral some loser with a grudge.
Far from containing the incident and calmly reassuring the public the authorities helped spread panic and confusion by evacuating thousands, closing down Tube stations, emptying buses, and forcing motorists out of their cars.
Needless to say, making a drama out of a crisis with Rambo lookalikes relishing every minute of it.
Having all this kit and knowing how to use it responsibly, however, are two different things. And when it comes to botching their armed responses the police have form.
Ask the Menezes family or the one time fiancee of the barrister Mark Saunders who, drunk and depressed, pathetically brandished a shotgun at his upstairs window before being blasted to kingdom come in a volley of gunfire from seven police marksmen. And this, as an inquest heard, despite repeated reassurances from the same police force that all would end peacefully if he gave himself up.
Never was the term “overkill” more depressingly apt.
As we’re increasingly seeing, the police are rather good at overreacting. Though how good they are at actually firing the weapons they blithely equip themselves with is another matter entirely. And the record to date doesn’t inspire confidence.