Quite a few of you will need no explanation for that.
Where do I begin?
Bernie Hogan-Who in The Times
Instead of answering the 5 serious, important questions the reporter wanted to ask him;
- The police service in England and Wales has lost 16,000 officers in five years, and faces further budget cuts; according to HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, some small forces won’t be viable in a few years. What does Sir Bernard think should be done?
Police have no real idea about the scale of cybercrime or how to tackle it. Does he have any thoughts?
- The Met is moving 50 officers from murder squads to its overstretched child abuse teams — is the commissioner worried that the fixation on historical abuse cases puts vulnerable kids at greater risk today?
- The Plebgate affair exploded from a silly spat in Downing Street into a crisis that has eroded confidence in British policing. Is Sir Bernard ready to admit his failings over its handling — not least the decision not to nip in the bud the whole thing by holding a proper inquiry immediately?
- Amid stories of a bellowing, bullying culture at the Yard why did he move a hugely experienced officer from her job as head of counterterrorism in the most volatile security atmosphere for years? What caused him to sideline the senior officer who delivered the successful security operation at the 2012 Olympics until the man felt he had no option but to leave the Met?
- And just why does he need to recruit a £98,000-a-year “expert relationship manager” to “control his media profile”?
he sends an invitation to join him at the gym to witness him doing the mandatory Fitness Test.
Then came the dreadful news that officer ‘E7’ has been charged with MURDER following the fatal shooting of Azelle Rodney in April 2005. Personally I know nothing about this tragic event, only what I have read in the press. It was reported that Mr Rodney was shot 6 times, in the arm, back and head.
All I can say on the matter is that EVERY single Firearms Officer that I ever came into contact with took was fully aware of their responsibilities and took them very seriously indeed.
The balance is a tricky one, very tricky indeed.
I am in no way suggesting that Police Officers should be given Carte Blanche to go round putting 6 rounds into everyone they take a dislike to, but part of their job is to make Life or Death (literally) split-second decisions before they pull their trigger, or not. If they now have to add in thinking “but hang on a mo, E7 did that and he’s up on a murder charge” in the time it’s taken you to read that the officer could be dead.
If the evidence can show that this was a premeditated act by E7 then the charge of murder is presumably valid.
I have never been unfortunate enough to have to carry a firearm, but I have been deployed on operations in high-risk situations where Authorised Firearms Officers (AFOs) were deployed to a) protect us and b) get us out if the wheel became disconnected. On every single occasion a full Operational Strategy and Risk Assessment were prepared, along with an awful lot of What If scenarios. Professionalism personified.
In her statement to the Media, DPP, Alison Saunders said “……
Following the outcome of the public inquiry, the Independent Police Complaints Commission re-referred the matter to the CPS, providing us with the evidence previously gathered and the further evidence and material which has emerged since the initial referral.
“We have carefully considered the new file of evidence submitted to us and have decided that a former Metropolitan Police officer, currently identified only as E7, will be prosecuted for murder……………We have determined that there is a realistic prospect of conviction and that a prosecution is in the public interest.”
Not much room for doubting what’s in her mind then.
If I WAS an AFO now, I would seriously be considering handing back my authorisation. Every single one of those officers is a Volunteer. No officer is ever forced to undergo Firearms Training, except to ‘reclassify’ at regular intervals after initial training. There are also loads of psychometric tests to pass as well. They volunteer to put their lives at risk for the Public Good. They are human, sometimes, but not very often, tragic mistakes are made, but in my view that is exactly what they are, mistakes, not evil acts by rogue officers.
If the AFOs of London now decided to surrender their Authorisations en masse, chaos would ensue.
There would be no armed operations conducted by the Met, none at all.
Cabinet Ministers (and others entitled to Protection) would not get the Armed Guard they should be getting.
Neither will visiting Diplomats.
Neither will the Royal Family.
It won’t happen, mainly because the officers are too professional and they fully realise the consequences, but it SHOULD happen in my opinion.
A similar, but slightly less serious, situation exists with Police Drivers. They are trained to very high levels. However, again, occasionally things go tragically wrong.
I know from my own personal experience that there is a total lack of support when the round, black thing comes off. In my own case I was immediately suspended from driving, served a summons by my Inspector on Christmas Eve (that does NOT happen to members of the public, and is totally unnecessary), faced a full trial in the Magistrates Court and at the end of it found Not Guilty, mainly, I think, because it’s difficult to prove a case of Driving Without Due Care and Attention against the Police Driver when the Police car is stationary and is hit by a low-flying Porsche travelling at 113 miles per hour.
When I returned to my Station from Court and announced my acquittal, a certain Chief Inspector from Traffic said “We all know what happens at Court lad, the Innocent get convicted and the Guilty go free”
I never did drive a Police car in anger again after that. Despite being reinstated as a Police Driver I had forcibly realised that my own Driving Licence was at risk, and there was no support from the organisation. Police Drivers are also Volunteers, and if every Police Officer refused to carry a Firearm and refuses to drive a Police Vehicle I dread to think of the consequences.
I’m not recommending Indemnity from anything, but some support would be nice, and, until it comes, TJF.
Before you all shout at me and say that there is support in other areas, that dried up long ago. My partner at the time went to see the Chief Superintendent asking for some Compassionate Leave because his wife had been admitted to hospital and the kids needed looking after. I kid you not, his response was “Put your kids into Care temporarily”.
Slowly, bit by bit, everything that was good about the Job is being whittled away, and I truly struggle to understand why folk do it now.
I’m going to get flak for this, but I’m not advocating immunity. I do, however, think it’s time for a full study of the stresses and strains of Firearms Operations in particular. A fuller understanding of what it’s like being that officer needs to be obtained. I don’t have the answer, and I’m not claiming that I do.
Don’t just take the ramblings of an old goat as Gospel, try to put yourself in the position of an AFO, finger on trigger, already been at work for nearly 8 hours, possibly you have one or more guns pointed at you. There might be members of the public caught up in the situation. You’ve probably already got more than enough going on in your head, do you really NEED further distractions, worrying even more than usual about the consequences of getting this wrong? One thing you definitely do not need is anything that will slow down and/or impair the quality of your thought process by way of distraction. You are a Professional, fully aware of the potential consequences of your situation.
Maybe Alison Saunders, the DPP, has been a Firearms Officer in a previous career, in which case she’ll understand perfectly. If she hasn’t, then just maybe her words could have been better chosen.
A spokesperson for the Met said “……Our officers are highly-trained and professional and fire shots only once or twice a year.”
Keith Vaz MP, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “This is an important step towards justice. No one is above the law ………..”