Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/11/08/ipcc_report_stockwell_one/

Shooting report reveals glaring failures in Met's operation

Ian Blair's command under the microscope

By Lewis Page

Posted in Law, 8th November 2007 17:28 GMT

Analysis The UK Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has released the "Stockwell One" report of its investigation into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes by armed Metropolitan Police officers in 2005.

Releasing the report, Nick Hardwick - chairman of the IPCC - made several comments to reporters, giving the IPCC's view of the matter. Until completion of the recent trial of the Met under health and safety laws, the complaints investigators could not speak freely.

"It has been suggested that the ordinary law... should not apply to the police service, and that this trial will make it more difficult for the police to catch real terrorists," said Hardwick, presumably referring to London Mayor Ken Livingstone's remarks to that effect.

Hardwick dealt with Mayor Ken's position bluntly.

"That is the wrong road," he said. "The defining feature of the police in this country is that the law applies to them individually and as a service just as it does to every other citizen and organisation. This case is not about creating a more risk-averse police service but a more coherent and effective police response."

The IPCC chief went on to set the scene.

"There are two very stark images from the now infamous CCTV coverage of Stockwell Station," he said.

"The first is of Jean Charles de Menezes entering the station, wearing light summer clothing, picking up a paper and going to get his train.

"The second, just over a minute later, shows police officers running down into the depths of the station, into what I am sure they believed was deadly peril, the first passengers... hurrying to escape in the other direction.

"Neither Mr de Menezes nor the police officers are diminished by us remembering the tragedy of one and the heroism of others on that day."

Mr Hardwick went on to say that the essential questions around Stockwell were these:

"If they thought he might have a bomb, why was he allowed twice to get on a bus and then on the tube?"

"If they thought he didn't have a bomb, why did they shoot him?"

Which seems incapable of improvement. He went on to say that the Met had suffered from multiple operational failures on the day of the shooting, which are detailed in the full report.

Hardwick also directly criticised London's top cop, Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, for his actions in the aftermath of de Menezes' death.

"The Commissioner [Blair] attempted to prevent us carrying out an investigation. In my view, much of the avoidable difficulty the Stockwell incident has caused the Metropolitan Police arose from the delay [in the IPCC being tasked]."

He also offered oblique criticism of Blair's decision not to plead guilty on behalf of the Met in the recent trial.

"To achieve public confidence... it has been necessary for the Metropolitan Police to accept that mistakes were made," he said.

"I think the defence the Metropolitan Police adopted at the health and safety trial may have created some confusion in the public mind about their willingness to do this."

However, Hardwick said that as a practical matter the Met had in fact accepted that it had cocked up, and that its officers had worked hard to do better in future.

The full report (170-page pdf) is now online. It makes interesting reading, and will be the first chance for many to get close to the facts of Stockwell without an intervening media or political agenda.

For those willing to put up with the Reg agenda, here are a few of the bits we found interesting.

On Operation KRATOS, the UK police's post-9/11 plan for dealing with suicide bombers:

The tactics needed... to take into account the fact that most explosives used by suicide bombers are extremely sensitive to impact and that terrorists will spontaneously detonate their devices if they believe they have been identified... if confronted, the terrorist is very likely to initiate a spontaneous detonation. In such circumstances loss of life is inevitable unless it is possible to devise a way of:
(i) making the police confrontation at arms length;
(ii) timing the confrontation so as to avoid the presence of innocent third parties.
The police experience in Madrid highlighted the problem in an acute form. During the investigation into the Madrid bombings in 2004, a number of people lost their lives when the terrorist suspects detonated a device as the police approached.

Police firearms guidance was written, saying:

It may not be appropriate to issue a warning, the shot may be to the head to avoid detonating an explosive device.

There was also some interesting stuff relating to the position of Commander Cressida Dick, who was in command of the teams who dealt with de Menezes.

The ACPO Manual on the Police Use of Firearms states unequivocally that the ultimate responsibility for the management of a firearms incident and the deployment of resources rests with the Silver Commander.
Commander DICK has extensive training and experience as Silver and Gold Commander in firearms and other police operations.
Commander DICK drew on her knowledge and experience... to set up a structure to enable the arrest of a suspect. In effect she made herself the Silver Commander assuming responsibility for all aspects of the firearms operation.

Full details of what actually happened on the ground are laid out.

Two Surveillance teams from SO12 were deployed at SCOTIA ROAD [de Menezes' home] to control the premises and to follow any persons coming out of the communal block of flats. Some of these officers were armed for their own protection and the protection of the public. Their training does not enable them to be used as a resource to arrest armed suspects; CO19 would normally undertake this task. [However the IPCC note that: Evidence was given at the Central Criminal Court that armed officers from SO12 would have been used as a last resort.] ...Each surveillance team had a member of the military attached to them. Those soldiers [almost certainly members of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment] were unarmed.

The surveillance teams requested a specialist CO19 firearms team more than four hours before de Menezes left his flat, but they didn't arrive. The IPCC say that:

Enquiries have failed to establish the reason why CO19 were not deployed to the Scotia Road area until after the time Mr DE MENEZES left his flat.

Something to do with the fact that CO19 is separate from the police who need their support, and not accountable to them, we'd submit. More bosses and separate chains of command equals less efficiency, as ever.

Denied specialist armed backup, the armed surveillance team followed de Menezes, trying to positively identify him but not interfering as he twice boarded crowded buses and then got on the tube. Commander Dick gave orders to the CO19 team, racing by now to intercept, that de Menezes was to be "stopped".

The surveillance officers made no effort to do anything themselves until they were sharing a crowded tube carriage with de Menezes, despite the fact theat they "were armed for their own protection and the protection of the public" and they could draw and if necessary use those weapons "as a last resort". Commander Dick did not tell them to act.

Action by the surveillance team while de Menezes was clear of buses or tube seems a hugely obvious move with hindsight. It seems fair to say that veteran specialist coppers like Dick and the surveillance team leader might reasonably be expected to show some foresight in circumstances like this, especially as they had several chances to do so. Facing de Menezes with only their own lives (perceived) to be at risk along with his, the surveillance cops would have had some scope at least not to shoot him - and a lot more scope to make a good identification. Had he actually been a bomber, they would certainly have saved a lot of civilians - and minimised the risk to themselves.

How on earth Dick - and maybe the top hand of the surveillance team - can be blameless in this is difficult to make out.

As for CO19, they were requested to attend Scotia Road at 5:05. No CO19 operators were beeped or called out urgently; they reported for duty as normal, got briefed, booked out weapons, went to another station nearer the scene, got briefed again and only deployed once de Menezes was on the move.

That sort of thing is not normal for uniformed emergency-response organisations. Some head in CO19 should roll. Those coppers should have been beeped at 5:06 and at Scotia Road to meet de Menezes as he came out of his door.

As for what the CO19 officers did once they finally reached de Menezes, it's hard to see what else they could have done by then.

And as for Commissioner Ian Blair, his decision to try and keep out the IPCC was inexcusable, as Mr Hardwick says. His decision not to plead guilty in the recent trial has, as Mr Hardwick says, tarnished the Met's reputation, not to mention his own.

Cressida Dick has been exonerated by a jury. The surveillance plods were under her direct orders, so if she's in the clear, they presumably must be too. The CO19 shooters themselves - quite apart from being very brave, as Hardwick points out - seem to be blameless, though their chain of command is not.

But as for the Teflon Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair... dear me. Perhaps someone should leave a loaded pistol in his desk drawer and hint that he does the decent thing. (Though an unsigned resignation letter and a pen might be rather better.) ®