What's in a Coat?

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Yesterday a New York Times op-ed piece explained that, while pumping eight rounds into the head and shoulder of an innocent man in the London subway was "horrible," it was also "the right thing" for police to do under the circumstances. "The police saw a man wearing a long coat out of place on a hot summer day jumping over a turnstile and running for a crowded subway train," wrote Haim Watzman, author of Company C: An American's Life as a Citizen-Soldier in Israel.

Also yesterday, relatives of that innocent man, 27-year-old Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes, denied that he was wearing a long coat (it was a denim jacket, they said) and questioned reports that he jumped the turnstile. Right after the July 22 shooting, at least one witness said Menezes was wearing a "bulky" (as opposed to long) coat of the sort that might conceal explosives. I guess it could have been long and bulky. Unless it was a denim jacket. Surely this is one detail that can be definitively nailed down by the official inquiry, assuming the coat or jacket wasn't removed and discarded after the shooting.

Menezes' family also continues to insist, contrary to the government's claim that his visa had expired, that he was in the U.K. legally, which would make his retreat from the police (confirmed by several witnesses) harder to understand. But since the police who surrounded him were in plain clothes, maybe he didn't realize they were cops. Even if they shouted "Stop! Police!" as he ran away (another detail I have not seen definitively addressed), he might not have believed them. Or maybe he was just worried they might shoot him in the head.

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  1. With all the millions of cameras they have in London, why can’t they clarify this by releasing the film that shows what happened?

  2. Yeah, his clothing should be easy to verify.

    His visa status? Maybe he honestly thought his visa was good but some database says otherwise due to either a bureaucratic snafu or his own misunderstanding. Or maybe he told his family his visa was still in effect because he didn’t want them to worry. In any case, it seems like that question is answerable.

  3. Thoreau–

    It’s not just his clothing I want to verify: did he or didn’t he jump the turnstile, as the bobbies claimed? And, just as I think Americans should see the photos of the Abu Ghraib atrocities done in our name, I think Londoners should be able to see their erstwhile protectors pin a man to the ground and THEN shoot hiim in the head seven times.

    Just so they understand how much “safety” their leaders are inflicting on them.

  4. There are certain facts that needn’t be upto interpretation. Denim, long or bulky jackets, visa status, whether police were in plainclothes, whether they announced themselves, etc.

    How hard is it to verify this stuff? The very fact that they cannot validate all this with certainty gives rise to suspicion, especially when it’s governmental abuse of power in question.

  5. Good point, Jennifer. I wonder if they’re experiencing technical difficulties. πŸ˜‰

    I have no problem with cameras being ubiquitous on public property, as long as anyone with an Internet connection can watch them. The only thing that would make up for private individuals’ loss of privacy would be the government’s loss of privacy.

  6. Gotta agree with Jennifer. Over half the cams on London streets are privately owned, and I am aware of no weird “emminent domain” over cam footage in the UK.
    Again I suggest that as many cam feeds as possible be made available on the web. Let the sit-at-home paranoids sift through this stuff in real time. They’ll have more success (and I venture a higher accuracy rate) than law enforcement when it comes to IDing suspects.

  7. Ha! Further proof that I am not Jeff! πŸ˜‰

  8. You are too! Do not deny me!

  9. When the hell did I start living with Crimethink?

  10. If the government wants to have the level of cooperation it needs for anti-terror security measures, and wants to avoid dangerous incidents, it’s going to have to pass on prosecuting visa violations, drug possession, and other non-dangerous crimes discovered in such stops and searches, and make sure the public knows that policy.

    Otherwise, people are going to run away, assault the police, endanger others, and get shot in the head.

    It’s one or the other, and they have to choose.

  11. Come to think of it: given the ease with which someone (ahem) might obtain movies and TV shows off the internet, I would be shocked if there wasn’t a surveillance cam footage swap network out there already. I know there’s lots of centralized webcam sites. Let me investigate.

  12. joe, that’s one of the most eminently reasonable statements I’ve heard since this shitstorm began.

  13. Joe’s comment makes perfect sense, would cost no money and would go a LONG way toward solving a lot of our current problems. Which is why there’s no chance in HELL it will ever happen.

    Sorry, Joe.

  14. With all the millions of cameras they have in London, why can’t they clarify this by releasing the film that shows what happened?

    You don’t suppose it’s because the authorities are busy trying to figure out a way to cover their asses when the pix show that the guy wasn’t dressed anything out of the range of ordinary? Naaah. That would never happen.

    Over half the cams on London streets are privately owned, and I am aware of no weird “emminent domain” over cam footage in the UK.

    Well, I understand there was a security camera at the Citgo gas station across the way from the Pentagon that might have caught the plane crash on 9/11, and that it took the feds less than an hour to show up and demand the film, which has never been seen again. I don’t know why Tony Blair’s finest can’t do the same in London, and tell the owners that if they don’t like it they can sue to get their property back. I haven’t noticed that Tony lets himself get slowed down much by the historical rights of Englishmen.

  15. If the government wants to have the level of cooperation it needs for anti-terror security measures, and wants to avoid dangerous incidents, it’s going to have to pass on prosecuting visa violations, drug possession, and other non-dangerous crimes discovered in such stops and searches, and make sure the public knows that policy.

    …and then make sure that the public can trust them to follow that policy. Which I wouldn’t, if I had such things to hide.

  16. Seamus–

    In my very first post, I forgot to write it in such a way that my sarcasm and disdain showed through. Of COURSE they won’t release the film, since that would show that the cops were lying through their nasty British teeth when they talked about the scary dark-skinned man with the scary bulky jacket and the scary jumping of the turnstile.

  17. Maybe the cops didn’t want their nasty British teeth on video for the world to see…

  18. I also feel bad for the de Menezes family that they apparently apparently are saddled with the indignity of having Bianca Jagger at all their press conferences.

  19. It seems to me that after a bombing and an attempted bombing he (like everybody else in London, no doubt) was justifiably a little nervous and that when rushed by a group of heavily armed men he simply panicked. I mean, who WOULDN’T be a bit jumpy in the circumstances? The police certainly were.

  20. When the hell did I start living with Crimethink?

    You wish! In a totally platonic way, of course…

  21. Whether we like it or not, the important issue is whether or not he ran.

    Even as a civil libertarian, I have to concede that if you run from the police, bad things can happen.

    Even when the police are in the wrong, you have three choices regarding how to fight them:

    A) surrender to them, and fight them later in court and through civilian review boards and the like

    B) engage in sedition

    C) attempt to flee or evade them.

    Of those choices, B & C are likely to get you shot, so if you aren’t willing to risk getting shot, you should choose A. And since we can’t expect the police, on the spot, to determine if you’re the one who’s morally in the right in the larger sense if you choose B or C, we can’t really blame the police if they shoot at you [regardless of the merits of the overall situation] if you engage in B or C.

  22. Oh, yes, and don’t think it’s just London cops who are inclined to treat ordinary civilians as terrorists:
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/akers/akers10.html

    Fortunately they didn’t cap anyone in that incident. But of course they do sometimes:
    http://www.libertyhaven.com/politicsandcurrentevents/crimeandterrorism/terror.html

  23. Fluffy–

    But even then, there seems to be dispute over whether the cops were even in uniform. It’s probably not wise to run away from a gun-toting uniformed police officer, but what about some stranger in civilian clothes who CLAIMS to be a cop?

  24. I can sympathize with the bobbies here if the turnstyle hurdling and concealment clothing stories hold up. They were looking for bomb threats. A single furtive motion into a pocket clicker can kill hundreds of people. At some point all you have to work with is recognition of language and response to your approach.

    Once the target is down and you have hands secured away from the body, I don’t think you have to shoot. If you are struggling for control of the suspect on the ground and he puts his hands in his pockets … I just don’t know. Glad I’m not a cop.

  25. Seamus–
    Yeah, I read about that horrifying tour bus incident a few days ago. I wonder how many more innocent people will be terrorized or killed by cops in the name of preventing innocent people from being terrorized or killed by terrorists?

  26. I mean, who WOULDN’T be a bit jumpy in the circumstances? The police certainly were.

    No, no, you don’t understand. Only the police are called on to make split-second decisions with life or death consequences.

  27. italics off

  28. Fluffy,

    This man was not shot while he was running away. He was shot while pinned to the ground.

  29. “It’s probably not wise to run away from a gun-toting uniformed police officer, but what about some stranger in civilian clothes who CLAIMS to be a cop?”

    That’s easy. You stop. What’s the worst he can do if he turns out not to be a cop? Shoot you in the head seven times?

  30. I just want to say, there are a lot of unknowns and variables going on here, and the threads about the incident on this site have contended with them admirably.

    Other sites I’ve seen, left and right, have treated this situation as if the right answer is obvious, and anybody who doesn’t immediately rally to the ‘right’ answer as an idiot. I think we’ve done a good job not getting out ahead of ourselves.

    I have to go put my arm in a cast now. πŸ˜‰

  31. Seamus–

    You know, this business of plainclothes cops makes me especially nervous because in the early 90s, when I was living in Southeastern Virginia, everybody was terrorized by the Parkway Killer, a serial killer who roamed the Colonial Parkway in Williamsburg. To the best of my knowledge they never caught the guy, but the FBI and police theorized that his method of killing was to pretend to be a police officer, pull people over, and then kill them.

    But of course the Williamsburg PD still insisted that if you drove down the dark, deserted parkway and saw the flashing lights behind you, you had to pull over IMMEDIATELY, rather than wait until you’d reached a safer, more populated part of the road. Even if it wasn’t a real cop car but an undercover vehicle behind you.

  32. Jennifer:

    That would make the episode a tragic result of the fact that both the police and the suspect had imperfect knowledge of what was going on.

    The suspect may have reasonably not known that the armed men were police.

    The police may have reasonably not known that the fleeing person was fleeing because he was frightened, and not because he was trying to complete his attack and/or evade arrest.

    But if this is what happened, in that situation I say, “What a tragedy.” I don’t say, “The police are murdering bastards!”

    Even under a system of “perfect” laws, from a civil libertarian perspective, it’s possible for an innocent suspect to get harmed because of an honest mistake on everyone’s part.

  33. “Media-think” on this shooting is that it was okay because the police were allowed to “shoot to kill.”
    In Sinincincinnati, of all places, police no longer think that way. Shoot to kill doesn’t apply after you’ve already got a suspect essentially subdued.

  34. “And since we can’t expect the police, on the spot, to determine if you’re the one who’s morally in the right in the larger sense if you choose B or C, we can’t really blame the police if they shoot at you [regardless of the merits of the overall situation] if you engage in B or C.”

    You can in the United States. Here, cops are bound by the Supreme Court’s decision in Garner v. Tennessee, which says that it’s a violation of the constitution if shoot a fleeing suspect unless they have “probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others.” In the Menezes case, the cops never had anything close to probable cause. At most, they had reasonable suspicion.

  35. It is all about whether you can see his hands. An uncooperative target who won’t show you his hands is frikkin’ deadly. A guy on the ground who grabs for your firearm has effectively threatened your life and can be shot here in the states. It is dicey, dicey stuff not to comply with verbal commands, to make sudden movements, or to struggle with a cop who thinks you might be armed.

  36. I’m seeing these reports about the Notting Hill raids today. Why do I picture a montage out of Benny Hill?
    Which gets me thinking: Just about every portrayal of the British Police Force in pop culture has pretty much painted them as ineffective fools. Sure, a few detectives are quick on the ball, but every “bobby” is six kinds of stupid.
    Yet the world is shocked when they screw up.

  37. Wow, another opportunity for Jennifer to bring up Abu Ghraib. Like we didn’t see that like a train light coming down a tunnel.

  38. “The police may have reasonably not known that the fleeing person was fleeing because he was frightened, and not because he was trying to complete his attack and/or evade arrest.”

    If the police are going to be running around in plain clothes, then before they use deadly force, they *always* have a duty to think about how a civilian might reasonably be reacting to the sight of them running around in a threatening manner with drawn guns. And in England, they need to remember one of the nine principles of policing set forth by Sir Robert Peel when he established the Metropolitan Police: “the police [are] only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence” (see http://coppersblog.blogspot.com/2004_11_01_coppersblog_archive.html#109983326721419157). That means, at the very least, that the cops don’t have any greater right to blow people away than ordinary citizens have.

  39. Fluffy–

    Even so, why the need to shoot him in the head AFTER he was pinned to the ground? If you’re that damned trigger-happy, then you have no business being one of the pathetically few people in Britain entitled to carry a weapon.

  40. I have no problem with cameras being ubiquitous on public property, as long as anyone with an Internet connection can watch them.

    I’ll see you and raise you there, Crimethink–if the government’s going to stick cameras all over the public sphere, then if there’s a civilian-cop altercation of any kind, if the film is not available for whatever reason then the civilian will be automatically presumed innocent and blameless. Otherwise, it’s FAR too easy for the government to conveniently “lose” any film that makes it out to be the guilty party.

  41. I have no problem with cameras being ubiquitous on public property, as long as anyone with an Internet connection can watch them.

    I’ll see you and raise you there, Crimethink–if the government’s going to stick cameras all over the public sphere, then if there’s a civilian-cop altercation of any kind, if the film is not available for whatever reason then the civilian will be automatically presumed innocent and blameless. Otherwise, it’s FAR too easy for the government to conveniently “lose” any film that makes it out to be the guilty party.

  42. The only problem I have with this is the fact that the cops were in plain clothes. I fail to see what the cops’ aversion is to wearing a uniform. If this guy had run from uniform cops, I would 100% say too bad so sad. If you wear a heavy coat on the underground in July and run from uniform cops after 7/7, then you either are a terrorist or to stupid to live, either way I don’t blame the cops for shooting the guy. If the cops are in plain clothes, it gets a little harder. How is he supposed to know they were cops and I can see how someone might think they were being mugged or something. Afterall, thanks to the U.K.’s insane gun control laws, London is a pretty dangerous city. That said, it was in public. It wasn’t on a dark, empty street at midnight. How much danger was he really in by stopping and talking to the guys even if they weren’t real cops? My guess is that he thought he was going to be deported and ran, which was a very stupid thing to do. I still can’t blame the cops for shooting him. In that situation, how could you not suspect he was a suicide bomber. If he had been and the cops not shot him, the consiquences would have been huge. Its an impossible situation to be in if you are a cop.

  43. “In the Menezes case, the cops never had anything close to probable cause. At most, they had reasonable suspicion.”

    I’m not so sure – the circumstances (an ongoing campaign of subway bombings, a fleeing suspect in a subway station, add in certain details about his hands and what he was wearing) could change the standard that allows force, increase the level of confidence the police reasonably had that there was imminent danger, or both.

  44. John-

    But apparently the cops’ story was full of holes–he was NOT wearing a heavy coat. and they did not shoot him as he was running–they shot him AFTER they’d subdued him and he was on the ground.

    Why don’t they just release the film, already? What is it they so do not want the world to see?

  45. Jennifer,

    “Erstwhile” means “former.”

  46. Even so, why the need to shoot him in the head AFTER he was pinned to the ground?

    Because that’s what the Israelis (who should know) reccommend for possible suicide bombers.

    If you’re that damned trigger-happy, then you have no business being one of the pathetically few people in Britain entitled to carry a weapon.

    Funny how popular Britain’s gun laws are here. And your laws did Amadou Diallo a lot of good – eleven bullets more than Menezes got.

  47. Jennifer,

    If what you are saying is true, then it is not a good shoot. I have not heard any of those facts, so I can’t say if they are true or not. I find it difficult to beleive that they subdued him and shot him. That means that they held him down and shot him at close range. Even a corrupt cop is not that stupid.

  48. i woudl simply say that if murdering innnocents in the subways has become the “right thing to do”, this society is closer to collapse than even i think.

  49. What’s in a Coat?
    A dead Brazilian, apparently.

  50. Thank you, Tim, I meant to say “presumptive.”

    This whole “Break my caffeine addiction” thing just isn’t working. I’m getting myself some coffee.

  51. The default position should be that the police are at fault; especially in light of the fishy nature of Scotland Yard’s response to the matter. That doesn’t eternally damn Scotland Yard of course, but it does require them to overcome a certain before they can start gloating.

  52. Yes, Brit, and that, no doubt, has helped Israel establish its current reputation as a worldwide haven for serenity, safety, and peace.

    As for the Diallo remark–huh? I never claimed that dumbass corrupt cops were exclusive to your side of the pond. Lord knows we’ve got our share of them here.

  53. There’s “subdued” and “held down” are not the same thing. Especially when you need only press a button in your pocket to kill everyone within fifty feet.

  54. I think they just saw the movie “Night Hawks” too many times.

  55. Tim, again–

    Re-reading my previous comment, even though I’d meant “presumptive” I think “erstwhle” actually works too, in that context.

    Especially if I were talking about Londoners from Brazil, no?

  56. Jennifer,

    Apparently to London cops anyone who is non-white is “Asian.”

  57. Joe,

    You make a good point.

    Jennifer,

    Let me ask you this. Suppose the guy really had been a suicide bomber and the police had just let him run into the subway and he had blown himself up killing 30 or 40 people. Where would Scotland Yard be then? If you were a police officer working in London, which would you rather have on your conscience, shooting an innocent person who looked suspicious and ran from you or not shooting a bomber who then kills dozens of people? If I am the London cop, I am taking option number 1. Were the cops trigger happy? Absolutely. But how long do you think someone would have lived in America if he had charged a cockpit door on a comercial flight in the weeks after 9-11? Not long I am sure. The facts may play out that the cops were totally in the wrong and had no reason to shoot the guy. Until that happens though, I am willing to give the police the benifit of the doubt.

  58. joe is right on target with the distinction between subdued and held down. Where were his hands?

    “The default position should be that the police are at fault; especially in light of the fishy nature of Scotland Yard’s response to the matter.”

    I disagree here. The default position is that we don’t know what happened, and you can’t prosecute or even fire officers if you don’t know what happened. If we find out that an actually subdued suspect was shot while being passive, they should all face manslaughter at a minimum.

  59. Suppose the guy really had been a suicide bomber and the police had just let him run into the subway

    Just to be clear: I am not criticizing the cops because they “prevented him from running into the subway;” I’m criticizing them because they shot him seven times after they’d brought him to the ground. And then told multiple lies about it after the fact. And then apparently “lost” the video footage that the government takes of every single damned person who dares walk on the street in that city.

    It’s the last two things on my list that makes ME give the dead man the benefit of the doubt and assume the worst about the cops. If they didn’t instantly suspect that they’d fucked up big-time, why would they have told so many lies? And if that film exonerated the cops, don’t you think it would be all over the BBC and the Internet by now?

  60. How did the police know he didn’t have a dead switch, and if his finger left the trigger, say after he was shot, it would explode the bomb?

  61. If you were a police officer working in London, which would you rather have on your conscience, shooting an innocent person who looked suspicious and ran from you or not shooting a bomber who then kills dozens of people?

    False option fallacy. Your “logic” could be used to justify shooting any dangerous-looking person rather than risking them killing others.

  62. John’s e-mail address leads me to believe he is an insurgent planning a suicide bombing. I have no proof, but I’d better shoot him just to make sure. Better to have his one death on my conscience than risk letting him kill dozens of innocent children.

  63. Too complex a situation. But like John said, it was in a public place, it doesn’t seem logical that he woulda thought the cops were robbers, even if they were plain clothes. Of course, the guy was from Brazil where some CRAZY FUCKING SHIT goes down (trust me, I lived there). That’s no excuse for thinking that the same happens in London. The guy was too dumb to live.

  64. I’ll see you and raise you there, Crimethink–if the government’s going to stick cameras all over the public sphere, then if there’s a civilian-cop altercation of any kind, if the film is not available for whatever reason then the civilian will be automatically presumed innocent and blameless. Otherwise, it’s FAR too easy for the government to conveniently “lose” any film that makes it out to be the guilty party.

    Comment by: Jennifer at July 29, 2005 11:53 AM

    from http://brownwatch.squarespace.com/police-brutality-watch/2005/3/20/in-the-wake-of-police-killing-of-unarmed-black-man-aurora-police-to-enact-deadly-force-board.html:

    The Aurora police department, which shot seven people last year and killed five, is taking steps to examine the use of deadly force….On Dec. 3, 2003, Jammal Bonner, 20, found himself outside the Top Star motel selling crack cocaine to an undercover police officer posing as a hooker. Police were trying to arrest prostitution patrons. A police surveillance camera was rolling and a “street arrest team” was in place, ready to take down suspects. Bonner wasn’t interested in sex, though, and the undercover police officer said she lured him up to a motel room. But what exactly happened in that room at the Top Star motel? As four SWAT officers pour into the room, the surveillance tape was turned off….

  65. Hmmmm….What’s that phrase?

    Oh yeah, personal responsibility.

    Amazing that even libertarians can sometimes forget this necessary corollary to liberty.

    As a refresher. An individual is morally responsible for HIS actions, noone else’s. Further, the only way someone “forces” you to do something is when they hold a gun (or similar) to your head.

    Applying this supposedly bedrock libertarian principle to this action:

    The cop(s) is(are) absolutely responsible for killing an innocent man. He didn’t shoot himself. He didn’t force them to kill him. They chose to do so of their own free will.

    Now, if they were acting under a reasonable belief that they were acting in self-defense, or defense of others, their fault is mitigated, but not eliminated. They chose to take a risk and use deadly force in a situation where they had incomplete information. Any negative outcomes from taking such a risk are THEIR fault.

    And, no, they aren’t justified just because terrorists are making them piss their pants. The terrorists are personally responsible for the innocents THEY kill. The government (by extension the cops) are not responsible for failing to prevent it. That’s life. On the other hand, the government (through the cops) IS responsible for the death of Mr. Menezes.

    Case closed. Or are libertarians just as hollow in their principles as the Republicans and Democrats?

  66. “joe is right on target…” That’s a really unfortunate choice of words.

    “How did the police know he didn’t have a dead switch, and if his finger left the trigger, say after he was shot, it would explode the bomb?”

    They didn’t know, Mr. Oliver. They were playing the percentages.

  67. the guy was from Brazil where some CRAZY FUCKING SHIT goes down

    this should be emphasized — people don’t always submit to the police or people who claim to be the cops precisely because, in many people’s experiences, that isn’t a very smart thing to do. that cannot be an excuse for law enforcement to become a paramilitary wing with the authority to murder on suspicion — unless we don’t mind giving up any pretense to living under the rule of law.

  68. quasibill,

    “Further, the only way someone “forces” you to do something is when they hold a gun (or similar) to your head.”

    Are residents of NYC perfectly free to avoid being searched by the police, because their necessity to take the subway is the consequence of the building and transportation system, rather than having guns to their heads?

  69. This qualifies as a tragedy for all concerned. The cops were in a no-win situation. The victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and his reactions got him killed. Let’s not overthink it.

  70. quasibill:

    Let’s say in a dark alley, I shoot someone. I get prosecuted. I argue self defence. The evidence is inconclusive. Should the default assumption of the court be that it is my responsibility or that I have done something wrong?

    I recognize that there is a difference between responsibility in the moral sense and responsibility in a legal sense, but I submit that there are more practical consequences to the latter. Of course we are all responsible for our own actions in a moral sense.

  71. Jason Ligon,

    No, my point is right on. If cops kill somone, especially an unarmed man who they admit had no criminal intent, etc., the default position is that cops acted wrongly. Its not the victim’s job to prove his innocence.

  72. Joe,

    While I sympathize with your point, the answer is yes – they can always walk, take a taxi or bus. Or they could relocate out of NYC. Pleasant or easy? Obviously not. But you do have a choice.

    The problem is that the government runs the subway. If it was forced to respond to the market in order to operate, it would be forced to be much more user friendly.

    As it is, the government can harass the passengers all it wants, as it won’t affect it’s tax derived income.

  73. Jason,

    you are right that there are differences between morality and legality. However, the points are that 1. You WILL get prosecuted, count on it. No free passes for citizens, only priests of the cloth (government employees); and 2. That yes – it is your fault if you use deadly force when you don’t have all the facts. Like I said, your culpability can be mitigated if you act under a reasonable belief of self-defense, but the culpability is still yours. You took the risk of killing an innocent when you acted. It’s noone else’s fault but yours. In essence, you put the possibility of your life being under threat above the possibility of you killing an innocent person. If anyone deserves to bear the consequences of your decision, it is you. Unfortunately, we can’t revive the dead person, so you can never redress the wrong you committed totally.

    If you want liberty, you have to accept responsibility. Can’t have one without the other.

  74. Its not the victim’s job to prove his innocence.

    True. That’s a dilemma with any police shooting: The victim is to be presumed innocent, but if the cop is prosecuted for murder then he’s also presumed innocent until proven guilty. The only way both parties to the shooting can be presumed innocent is if you presume a tragic but understandable mistake until proven otherwise.

    Which might sound like sophistry, but there is a practical point to it: If the cop is presumed to have made a tragic mistake unless he can prove otherwise, then the presumption should be that he will have to turn in his badge unless he can defend himself in the investigation. Doesn’t mean that he should go to jail, but it does mean that he should no longer enjoy the authority of a cop.

    Now, I know somebody will shout “Innocent until proven guilty!” but that only applies to prosecuting a person, when the stakes are potential loss of liberty. Firing somebody from the police force isn’t depriving him of liberty, it merely deprives him of authority over his fellow citizens. That’s undoubtedly unpleasant for him, but authority is something you have to earn on a continuous basis. Liberty is something that citizens are guaranteed in a free society. So, authority is earned and liberty is (or should be) a guarantee. (And yes, I know, freedom needs to be protected, it isn’t something you can just take for granted. My only point is that the burden of proof for depriving somebody of liberty is not the same as the burden of proof for depriving somebody of authority.)

    So, I can see a lot of situations where the average person might shoot somebody else in a panic and we might consider it justified under the circumstances. But cops are supposed to be trained professionals and authority figures, and to be an authority figure you are supposed to demonstrate more competence than the average person in stressful situations. If you can’t demonstrate that competence that doesn’t necessarily mean you should go to jail, but it does mean you shouldn’t be an authority figure.

  75. Hakluyt,

    “If cops kill somone, especially an unarmed man who they admit had no criminal intent, etc., the default position is that cops acted wrongly.”

    I think it would be better to say, “the default position is that something is wrong,” rather than to assume the problem was with the cops on the scene. Especially in this case, when, yes goddammit, the police in the London subway need to be prepared to use deadly force to stop someone who looks just like a normal subway rider from slaughtering a dozen or more people.

  76. The General sez:

    i woudl simply say that if murdering innnocents in the subways has become the “right thing to do”, this society is closer to collapse than even i think.

    Christ, civilization IS at an end… I agree with Gaius.

  77. I’m happy to see the posters recognizing we still don’t know all the facts, that presumption of innocence applies to officers of the state as well as citizens, and that each person is responsible for his actions.

    On the pro-Bobby side, after 3 years wouldn’t Menezes have noticed that the police are of a different character in the UK than in Brazil? That a group of people acting in concert with drawn firearms is more likely to be police than gangs in the tube?

    The fuzz killed a man in a manner not likely to be judged murder. Does UK have something like our Wrongful Death tort?

  78. Christ, civilization IS at an end… I agree with Gaius.

    as do i, mr kmw. i’m not even bothering to hit the ‘shift’ key to make capital letters. freedom in this country is dead, and if you think you see signs of life it’s just rigor mortis making the corpse twitch.

    we are no longer free to go about our daily business without being subjected to warrantless searches; sure, it’s just new york public transport for now, but it will spread like any other virulent fungus until the whole country is infected. and if a trigger-happy cop shoots us there will be plenty of ‘lovers of freedom’ ready to make comments like ‘cops (not dead innocent civilians) deserve the benefit of the doubt’ or ‘the dead guy was too dumb too live.’

  79. every day brings something new, mr kmw. πŸ™‚

  80. joe,

    No, the proper default position is as I have stated it.

    thoreau,

    Actually, yes, the cop has to demonstrate, is required to do so in fact, that his actions were justified if he wants to escape prosecution. Its a special burden of conduct we place on cops given the authority granted to them by the state. So far, Scotland Yard’s sketchy behavior hasn’t given me much confidence that this burden will be met.

  81. Dynamist,

    On the pro-Bobby side, after 3 years wouldn’t Menezes have noticed that the police are of a different character in the UK than in Brazil?

    They aren’t. People of color are treated like shit by London cops. Honestly, are you even aware of the deeply racist quality of London cops?

    That a group of people acting in concert with drawn firearms is more likely to be police than gangs in the tube?

    Gangs in Britain carry guns too.

  82. Dynamist,

    BTW, as I recall, when we didn’t know all the facts in the hours after the murder of this man, that you were jumping all about with bloodlust regarding his death.

  83. “No. The citizenry have a duty to obey the police.”

    I know this was meant tongue-in-cheek, but I am reminded how, when Sir Robert Peel established the Metropolitan Police, many people were uneasy that this was going to undermine the liberties of free-born Englishmen. After all, Peel’s police force looked a lot like the kind of thing they had in (dare I say it) France. Peels principles of policing (which I linked to above) were meant, among other things, to respond to such concerns and assure the English that the Peelers would never become such an above-the-law entity as the French or German police.

    As in the case of the Anti-Federalists with regard to the U.S. Constitution, it looks like the sceptics had it right after all.

  84. Jennifer,

    Actors of the state pulled the trigger and its up to the state (especially as it can make itself and its officers immune to prosecution) to justify their actions.

  85. “Gangs in Britain carry guns too.”

    Indeed, they’re far more likely to be carrying guns than the police are. (Though that’s changing. The British gun-control laws have been so successful in disarming the law-abiding population and thus emboldening the criminals that its a good bet that pretty soon the cops will going about armed as a matter of course.)

  86. “No. The citizenry have a duty to obey the police.”

    From whence does this duty arise? How far does this duty extend? What sort of duty do the police owe the citizenry? There are of course other questions along these lines.

    When people start claiming that I have a “duty” to do X, I start getting nervous about my liberty.

  87. Hakluyt–

    It’s easy for the state to justify their actions when they’re the ones controlling the video footage.

    I have an almost impersonal curiosity as to how long it’ll be before we see a similar incident here. That tour-bus thing in New York came close last week, but not quite.

  88. [style=Jean Bart]

    Hakluyt: Do you want to have an emotional pissing match? Bloodlust? What in your extensive study of humanity do you know of me? Please tell me about myself. You might consult the record before you accuse or even characterize. As I’ve told you before, please try to look to the ideas rather than getting caught up in the language.

    How often have you (or anyone) been chased onto a train by a criminal gang waving guns? If Menezes was running in fear of deeply racist police, you tacitly concede that he was running from police (he knew their identity). And not ordinary police, but some special plainclothes detail issued firearms. He made a choice, perhaps well-founded, that violated the law, and immediately helped precipitate his death.

    Now, just to make sure you’re happy, I call you a pompous fuck. Bring it on, loudmouth.

    [/Jean Bart]

  89. Dynamist–

    Hakluyt’s style may be abrasive, but you DO seem rather quick to side with authority whenever it hurts someone.

  90. Jennifer: You’re setting up a tautology: The state controls the evidence, and the state will never prove its own guilt. There’s not much to argue if you ignore that there are different factions within the state and hundreds of individual consciences who must conspire to pervert justice.

    It certainly has happened, it may be happening here, and will likely happen again elsewhere. But if it is all as bad as you and gaius make it sound, why aren’t you taking up arms to throw of the oppressors? (You may not be able to answer if you are in fact arming and plotting the revolution) I don’t think I could live under such conditions as those you seem to feel.

  91. “I have an almost impersonal curiosity as to how long it’ll be before we see a similar incident here.”

    I linked to a couple of stories where it *had* happened here. Of course, those were incidents where the cops killed innocent people because they were fearful merely for their *own* safety. If by “a similar incident,” you mean one in which the cops are fearful for the safety of scores of *other* people on a subway, bus, or city street, well, we’ve already heard from folks posting here that the police should be even *more* ready to err on the side of killing innocents. That should mean that just about everybody riding public transit will have the chance to be the next Amadou Diallo.

  92. Jennifer: I’m arguing the authority side on war and terrorism issues because I see that as a weakness in my classical anarchist utopian vision. If Anarchtopia doesn’t have an army, I fear it will be overrun by something like the PRC. If Anarchtopia doesn’t have a minarchist police force, I fear it will be subject to terror for its free-trade-based economic and cultural success.

    If I just bitch about government I don’t learn anything. On issues where I have a satisfactory alternative, like drug policy or state spending, I’m working to advance my ideas in the off-line world as well as the interweb.

    My arguments here are not necessarily all mine, and certainly not the whole of my beliefs or my character.

  93. Dynamist,

    *LOL* Honestly, you can’t do better than that rambling diatribe?

    Bring it on statist fuck.

  94. hakluyt:

    An officer can be convicted of murder and go to jail on inconclusive evidence that he acted wrongly because the ‘default assumption’ is wrongdoing?

  95. hakluyt:

    One reason I’m suspicious is that I know for a fact that the officer’s word is afforded greater weight in all he said she said cases in US courtrooms, and I believe that is a matter of law and not juror predisposition.

  96. 7 shots to the head of a person pinned down to the ground is inexecusable. The cops who shot this poor guy are criminals.

  97. Dynamist–

    In all sincerity, if you can think of a reason why the bobbies initially lied, and a reason why we haven’t seen that film footage, which does NOT involve the bobbies covering their collective ass, I’d be interested to hear it.

    Seamus–

    Yes, I made an oblique reference to one of them, the tour-bus incident. But the difference between London and the Amadou Diallo case (not that it’s any consolation to the victims or their families) is that most of our previous dead-innocent shootings involved people shot from soome distance, at night, where the cops couldn’t clearly see what was happening, and it would be TECHNICALLY possible–if you’re a paranoid trigger-happy cop with an “us vs. them” mentality–to buy that the cops were legitimately afraid.

    But this London thing–in the middle of the day, the cops could clearly see the guy, and they LIED. “Oh, his bulky jacket made us think he was hiding bombs.” Except there was no bulky jacket. “Oh, he jumped the turnstile.” Except there’s doubt about that. “Oh, he should obey the police.” (Or random strangers who CLAIM to be police.)

  98. Dyanmist,

    What in your extensive study of humanity do you know of me?

    I know that you jumped on his death when it was initially announced. I on the other hand remained rather suspicious of the act. My suspicious were borne out when Scotland Yard announced that the fellow had nothing to do with the bombings. He happened to be walking with dark skin pigment.

    If Menezes was running in fear of deeply racist police, you tacitly concede that he was running from police (he knew their identity).

    Thanks for the nice bit of sophistry. After alll, he didn’t have to be running from cops for them to be racist.

  99. Jennifer,

    The Diallo murder had much to do with NYC’s aggressive policing tactics at the time. They figured that the cost of some dead innocents was worth whatever benefits might accrue from the measure.

  100. “One reason I’m suspicious is that I know for a fact that the officer’s word is afforded greater weight in all he said she said cases in US courtrooms, and I believe that is a matter of law and not juror predisposition.”

    No, that’s not a matter of law. The jury has to judge the credibility of a cop on the witness stand just the same way they’d judge the credibility of any other witness. Here in the District of Columbia, juries typically do *not* just take the word of cops as gospel. (Maybe the fact that so many cops have proved to be criminals themselves has something to do with it.)

  101. Jennifer,

    Remember, we’re talking about the cops; its our duty as domestiques to trust them and do as they say in all circumstances.

  102. Bring it on statist fuck.

    There once was a poster named Gunnels
    Whose words caused him all sorts of troubles
    He mouthed off to Tim
    That’s what did him in
    So use care or you’ll be banned like Gunnels.

  103. Seamus,

    (Maybe the fact that so many cops have proved to be criminals themselves has something to do with it.)

    That’s been found to be the case around the country, be it the Rampart Division in California, or the hitman for hire cops of New Orleans.

  104. “The Diallo murder had much to do with NYC’s aggressive policing tactics at the time. They figured that the cost of some dead innocents was worth whatever benefits might accrue from the measure.”

    From what I read, the London police are using some pretty “aggressive policing tactics” themselves, at least with respect to suspected terrorists. And there seem to be plenty on this board who believe that “the cost of some dead innocents [is] worth whatever benefits might accrue from the measure.”

  105. thoreau,

    Thanks for the double-standard. I can be called a “pompous fuck,” but am not allowed to return a similar remark? *rolls eyes*

  106. Ack –

    I’m stuck with some sort of filter here. My posts mysteriously appear many minutes later, but are ordered by the time I actually posted them.

    Anyone looking for some of my replies will have to scroll back up to see them.

  107. So it’s okay for the cops to kill innocent people in order to prevent the terrorists from killing innocent people. Jesus Christ. Like the dead innocents and their families give a rat’s ass about the ideological motivations of the killers.

    But it should be a pretty effective strategy–keep apologizing for those trigger-happy fuckers and set them loose to do more of the same, and pretty soon there won’t be any innocent people left for the terrorists to kill. And then I guess we can declare victory from our graves.

  108. In other words: it’s okay for innocent people to die, so long as it’s not Islamic terrorists who kill them.

  109. “In other words: it’s okay for innocent people to die, so long as it’s not Islamic terrorists who kill them.”

    Well, in fairness, there is a moral difference between intentional and accidental acts. As Oliver Wendell Holmes put it, even a dog knows the difference between being kicked and being stumbled over. And that’s even when the dog gets injured just as much either way.

  110. Hakluyt: I stand on my record. You seem to have several moods, and today I didn’t feel like letting it slide.

    Find the Menezes thread and you’ll see among my first reactions was that the facts were not found, that it sucked that a human was dead, it would be hard to defend the fuzz for shooting a suspect under the officer’s body.

    Jennifer: Is it established that the Metropolitan Police lied, in the sense that they gave intentionally misleading info? First reports are notoriously unreliable, yet they were released, which could be a sign of the openness of the police. Even if they did lie, in the plainest sense of the word, it could easily be a tactic to put terror cells into some sort of panic so they would make mistakes and reveal themselves before more bombs went off. What matters more to me is that the facts do come out in something closer to a reasonable time-frame.

    The examples of CRASH in LA and the NOPD are examples of police corruption, and examples of how the system tends to root out that corruption. To look at either side exclusively is to deny the entire truth.

  111. But the difference between London and the Amadou Diallo case (not that it’s any consolation to the victims or their families) is that most of our previous dead-innocent shootings involved people shot from soome distance, at night, where the cops couldn’t clearly see what was happening, and it would be TECHNICALLY possible–if you’re a paranoid trigger-happy cop with an “us vs. them” mentality–to buy that the cops were legitimately afraid.

    You cut the American cops way too much slack. In my 11:23 a.m., I meant to include this link, http://www.paulbullock.com/war%20on%20drugs.htm, which includes the story of Robin Pratt: “Instead of using an apartment key given to them, SWAT members threw a 50 pound battering ram through a sliding glass door that landed near the heads of Pratt’s 6-year-old daughter and 5-year-old niece. As deputy Anthony Aston rounded the corner to the Pratts’ bedroom, he encountered Robin Pratt. SWAT members were yelling ‘Get down,’ and she started to crouch to her knees. She looked up at Aston and said, ‘Please don’t hurt my children.’ Aston had his gun pointed at her and fired, shooting her in the neck. According to attorney John Muenster, she was alive another one or two minutes but could not speak because her throat had been destroyed by the bullet. She was then handcuffed, lying facedown.”

    I guess the Seattle cops must have thought she was about to set off a bomb.

  112. Since Hakluyt (hilariously) called me statist, I’m led to wonder how would this be different if Menenzes had been killed by private security?

    The private Underground Security Watch would likely have acted just as the police seem to when a man ran from them in the climate of the times, and would control the surveillance tapes. Do we expect that a private firm would be more or less forthcoming? What are the citizens’ checks against the Pinkertons?

  113. Oops, not Seattle; it was Everett, Washington, cops who did it.

  114. “I’m led to wonder how would this be different if Menenzes had been killed by private security?”

    That’s easy. If it had been done by private security, the guards who did it would have been arrested immediately and probably wouldn’t have been released unless they posted bail set in the millions (pounds or dollars, take your pick). And Tony Blair’s prosecutors wouldn’t have rested until they were imprisoned somewhere where they’d have to pipe daylight in to them.

  115. accidental acts.

    it makes my head hurt to think that anyone sees pumping bullets into this guy was “accidental”. i think this comment, mr seamus, marks the point where your defense of the police moved into ridiculousness.

  116. My defense of the police? Except for that one post, I’ve been riding them hard all day. Gimme a fucking break.

  117. Seamus: Could you give me more detail? I accept an arrest and high bail, which the Pinkertons could pay. But are you complaining about Blair somehow, or the UK justice system, or what?

  118. sorry — i meant to say, “the”, not “your”. my bad, mr seamus.

  119. And yes, there is a difference between deliberately and accidentally killing an innocent person. From what I’ve seen so far, it looks very much like they negligently killed an innocent man.

  120. Maybe this is callous, but “a” brought up something that is bothering me a little bit. Eight rounds to the head at point blank range is not only overkill, but it is (possibly) quite dangerous, too. Depending on the surface that the victim was lying on, those rounds could (and probably would) ricochet after passing through the target. In a crowded subway station (or “Tube” station, I suppose) those rounds could go anywhere, and into anyone. In my firearm training, I was taught to think about what was behind the target, and where a discharged round could go after it hit-and-passed-through or missed. While the right or wrong of this shooting may never be determined, I think there is a clear case of negligence on the part of the police/MI-5 who did the shooting.
    Of course, most police shootings in the US involve tens of rounds discharged at the target, with a miserable hit percentage, so most of those rounds just tear off into the wild-blue, too. I suppose that negligence is only negligence when private citizens do it.

  121. in fact, mr seamus, i think your link provides an exceedingly clear example of how “the police” are not really only keepers of the peace anymore, but also a paramilitary wing of western governments that often acts without any real regard for the rights of the citizenry or the government’s responsibility to them. this perversion of their utility, from a passive institution into an active one, is part of the ongoing breakdown of civility that has permeated the west in the last few centuries and the desperate attempts of the ruling class to manage their problems with a rebellious set of proletariats.

  122. “But are you complaining about Blair somehow, or the UK justice system, or what?”

    I’m complaining about what Blair (and to some extent his immediate predecessors) have done to the UK justice system. Under Robert Peel’s principles of policing, the Peelers were just members of the public who did full time what every member of the community had a right (and at times an obligation) to do. Now, on the other hand, the cops are a privileged class. English law today recognizes almost no right of self-defense for private individuals, who are expected to sit back and wait until the police can take care of the problem. There is no way Blair’s government would have cut any private actor the kind of slack they’ve been cutting the police in this case.

  123. is negligence accidental? i would think rather that negligence which they displayed is entirely intentional, a product of the evolution of police.

  124. To wave off some of the hormone-steam from the uniform fetishists who’ve poisoned the air here:

    Since police are a greater proven threat to the safety and liberty of us citizens than J. Random Suspect is–or even than The Terrorists are–it would be just if our betters in blue were given the same default judgment we mere civilians are given when suspected of presenting that threat: a crazed excess of bullets in the skull.

    Libertarians used to say that kind of thing, you know. Back when they were libertarians. To make points about, like, liberty and shit. Good times.

  125. Dynamist,

    I never feel like letting your statist philosophy slide.

    …a man ran from them in the climate of the times, and would control the surveillance tapes.

    For someone who is just searching for the facts, you are certainly convinced that he Menzes was at fault.

  126. Seamus: Thanks. I’m cultivating a warm relationship with my local police in part so I can spring Peel’s principles on them in a public forum. I hope you’ll consider contributing to my bail fund.

    In a more abstract sense, I wonder what the posters would think of a private firm who made the same mistake as the Metropolitan Police seem to have made? Take away the anti-statist sentiment, and what is left? Are we anti-authority, and if so, is that anti-order and pro-chaos? Do we (other than gaius) endorse Hobbes’ estimation of human nature?

  127. Hakluyt: You’re baiting me. I’ll bite. Your labeling is of the same quality as I found on Suicide Girls. Now tell me about my history and why I think as you’ve decided I do.

    Do you dispute the charged environment in London at the time of Menezes’ murder/killing/suicide? Or that the security force doesn’t control the tapes?

  128. “I’m cultivating a warm relationship with my local police in part so I can spring Peel’s principles on them in a public forum. I hope you’ll consider contributing to my bail fund.”

    Your local police would throw you in jail for citing Peel’s principles in a public forum? It sounds like you live in Red China. They do have a different model of policing, to say the least (but one that ours is coming to resemble more and more).

    “I wonder what the posters would think of a private firm who made the same mistake as the Metropolitan Police seem to have made?”

    I think we’d apply the usual laws of homicide. We’d ask, did the actor reasonably believe that he had to use deadly force to prevent death or serious bodily harm to himself or others? From everything we’ve seen, it looks like the answer would be, no, such a belief would not have been reasonable. Yes, the use of deadly force *might* turn out in hindsight to have been necessary, but the law doesn’t give you the right to kill people on a “better safe than sorry” theory.

    (And I’m not even going to begin talking about how to apply that principle to the invasion of Iraq. )

  129. What he wore:

    Observer: baseball cap, blue fleece and baggy trousers

    Reuters: large winter coat

    Scotland Yard: Vivien Figueiredo (his cousin) claims that the cops her that he was a denim jacket

    The so called challenge:

    Scotland Yard: claims that they challenged Menezes

    Lee Ruston: this eyewitness that the cops made no effort to identify themselves

    The so-called ticket barrier jump:

    Some eyewitness state that he jumped the barrier, etc.; others states that he didn’t jump over it and used his pass.

    Recent history & his mood:

    A couple of weeks prior to his murder, Menezes had been attacked by a large gang in a land where only criminals or cops have guns.

    He was late for work.

  130. Let’s note that the weather in London on the day of shooting wasn’t exactly blazing hot: http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/EGLL/2005/7/22/DailyHistory.html

    At 10:00 AM (when he left his residence) it was a blazing 62 degrees.

  131. This thread has moved a bit down the page, but I couldn’t browse to this site for a while for some reason, and I just wanted to make one more contribution:

    In thinking about some of the things Jennifer had to say, I’ve come to the conclusion that we should seriously look at the concept of plain-clothes police in general.

    I don’t see any compelling reason to not have police in uniform.

    So-called “undercover” work is, in the great majority of cases I can think of, used mainly to investigate and prosecute crimes that shouldn’t be crimes in the first place. We would need a lot fewer “undercover” police if the drug war went bye-bye, if the prostitution laws didn’t essentially require near-entrapment for their enforcement, etc.

    I realize they also let detectives dress in plain clothes, but that’s more of a “perk” than a job requirement and I don’t see a reason to maintain it.

    There are some limited circumstances under which it might be necessary for police to be in plain clothes for investigative purposes, but we should definitely cut it way back.

  132. Seamus: I fear they’ll get mad when I “turn coat” on them and target me for selective enforcement of our many conflicting laws.

    At the risk of furthering my stereotype, the shooter does seem to have a reasonable case for the use of deadly force. He may have made a mistake in judgement, so it might be manslaughter, but it doesn’t seem like murder. Unless you can prove he was prowling the tube looking for darker-skinned people in coats running away from him.

    It seems part of my difference with most of y’all here is that I can see both sides as reasonable. Pretty much all the doubts offered about the shooting make sense. But so does the enforcement side. I want to ask how y’all would preserve some amount of safety, but you’ll have a hard time if I also constrain you to posit solutions that work under current conditions, where you have to appeal to those who do put safety above liberty.

  133. Fluffy: I like your idea. There might have been a better case in the past for unmarked police The plain car on the highway does create some doubt that any car might be there to bust you for speeding. Now, that doubt seems to work to the terrorist’s advantage, making people even less likely to cooperate when that cooperation could genuinely save lives.

    About the weight of the coat: I accept a Brazilian would be chilly on the warmest day in London. However, once in the tube, it is usually quite a bit hotter. Factor that into your judgements.

  134. Dyanmist,

    …the shooter does seem to have a reasonable case for the use of deadly force.

    This belies your claim that you are just looking for the facts.

    It seems part of my difference with most of y’all here is that I can see both sides as reasonable.

    I’m sorry, but one side was right or wrong. There are no mulligans when a guy is laying dead with seven slugs to the head and one to the arm. In the real world, the choice is binary.

  135. However, once in the tube, it is usually quite a bit hotter.

    I’m sure he might have taken his jacket off if he had been allowed to sit down; but as it was, he was shot dead before he had an oppurtunity to do that.

  136. A few notes:

    The “hot summer day” was about 70 degrees. (21C) The high temperature that day got to all of 72 (22C). Given that London is almost always much cooler than this in the “summer,” it’s not unreasonable to wear a jacket. This is a hot day in London, but as one of my readers commented, it would feel quite cold to someone from his part of the world.

    It’s quite likely he used his travelcard. The setup is similar to BART in San Francisco; the machine takes it from you and the ticket pops up on the other side; you walk through, pick up your ticket and off you go. He had his travelcard on him at the time.

  137. In the real world, the choice is binary.

    I guess you’re not an RA Wilson fan or a student of artificial intelligence.

    It’s not a mulligan. I’m not forgiving or absolving anyone. It is vague and ambiguos, at least until someone tries to squeeze a binary filter over it.

  138. Here’s a slightly scary photo: this is two British police officers (SWAT types, I guess) taking part in a raid earlier today.
    http://news.yahoo.com/photo/050729/481/lon81907291525
    Notice that there is nothing – from this angle, at least – which identifies them as police. What I can ‘t figure out is why they’re in plainclothes. It’s not like you could conceal a bulletproof vest, helmet, gas mask, and MP5 while you were walking around undercover.

  139. Dyanmist,

    Neither have anything to do with the legal system, which in this instance constitutes the real world for the victim of this murder and his executioners.

    If the guy(s) who shot him get off, then clearly it is binary; if they are convicted then clearly it is binary. As for Menezes, well, his condition is unitary; he’s dead.

  140. JD,

    Because they like to look “cool.”

  141. Only if you set up such binary terms. Convicted of what, with what sentence, or exhonerated of what.

    With all your legal knowledge, I would expect you to be better versed in the non-binary nature of trial and judgement.

    Your insistence that the act was murder also does nothing to bring the dead man back to life. How do you balance safety against liberty? We know you don’t like the fulcrum where it is, but where do you put it? Which tradeoffs are you willing to make?

  142. JD: They look like they might be “insurgents.” Should we consider them to be unlawful combatants, since they aren’t wearing uniforms? If al-Qaeda were to capture them, would Alberto Gonzales think it was legal to whisk them away to some woggish version of Gitmo?

  143. Dyanmist,

    The law in how it deals with guilt or acquittal is very binary (except in the case of capital crimes in U.S. states that have the death penalty); the specific charges are another matter entirely.

    How do you balance safety against liberty?

    There is neither safety nor liberty in the London police approach; that’s why Menezes is dead.

    An armed populace would be Britain’s best bet in these matters.

    I’m not insisting that he was murdered.

  144. Everyone knows that if SWAT teams don’t have the comfort of denim, the terrorists win.

  145. Everyone knows that if SWAT teams don’t have the comfort of denim, the terrorists win.

    Posted by Randolph Carter at July 29, 2005 07:38 PM

    Check out the pictures at http://www.peeniewallie.com/2005/07/waltham_ma_poli.html and http://www.peeniewallie.com/2005/07/montana_police.html.

    (Note: These photos are taken from 2002, during the search for the Beltway sniper, and are unrelated to the stories posted on my friend’s web site).

  146. Seamus, “My defense of the police? Except for that one post, I’ve been riding them hard all day. Gimme a fucking break.”

    I feel your pain.

    I’m an apologist for the Stalist Murder State.

  147. I’m in favor of an armed populace for a range of other reasons. Terrorism seems to be one area where the cost is likely greater than the benefit. How would you expect anything less than an avalanche of dead “darkies” given the widespread willingness of people to submit to searches and attack mosques?

    What’s the name of the fallacy where a single instance is assumed to apply to the general class? Menezes was killed by police, therefore all police are killers. There’s no safety or liberty in the London approach; that’s why 56 people were blown up a few weeks ago.

  148. Dynamist,

    It isn’t a single instance. London cops have killed a number of innocent individuals over the past decade or so. Why am I constantly having to color in the details that you don’t have at hand?

    There’s no safety or liberty in the London approach; that’s why 56 people were blown up a few weeks ago.

    Yes, the London approach has yet to stop a single terrorist attack, but it has killed an innocent person. That is the reality of their track record so far. Only the government could fuck up this much and still have people defending it.

  149. joe,

    As I recall, I seem to remember you defending a bunch of 1930s liberals and leftists who were keen on ignoring the barbarism of Stalinism.

  150. Yes, the London approach has yet to stop a single terrorist attack, but it has killed an innocent person. That is the reality of their track record so far. Only the government could fuck up this much and still have people defending it.

    Hakluyt, I don’t always agree with you, but this comment is spot-on, as the Brits supposedly say!

    I’m probably going to start learning how to use a hand gun soon. If I kill an innocent person but my mistake is “understandable”, will Dynamist donate to my legal defense fund?

  151. The difficulty is that you don’t know how many attacks have been stopped. Maybe it is zero, but probably not. I believe they found unused bombs in a car and a park over the passed couple of weeks. Do those count as “stops”?

    You conflate the usual killing by police with the particular killing of a mistaken terrorist. The armed populace could well replace much ordinary policing, and so diminish to near zero police killings. Defense against suicidal nihilists seems beyond the capabilities of civilians and may be a rare case where I must allow that police serve an essential purpose.

    I’m looking for one the libertarian geniuses out there to help me find an answer that keeps all killing as near zero as possible. Ruthless has the right answer in pacifist anarchy, but I don’t see how we all get there from where we are now, without becoming subjects of some totalitarian militarist force (be it homegrown or delivered from across the seas).

    thoreau: You’ll have a better chance with me on your jury than in your pocket. Money can’t buy an open mind.

  152. Dynamist,

    The U.K. has claimed that the London Police have almost shot seven innocent people over the past few weeks. It hasn’t made any claims about foiling any attacks in Britain. Indeed, its quite apparent that the only reason a bunch more Londoners aren’t dead is due simply to a bad batch of explosives.

  153. It must be late for you…were those innocents mistaken terrorists or “routine” police shootings? The bombs in the car were found before they reached a target. Having apprehended all four prime suspects, it seems like the police are doing something right. But it is so much easier to just complain that police are baaaad.

  154. If y’all want to pick on cops, here are my two “favorite” victims:

    Tycel Nelson, and a case of non-binary justice, Malice Green.

    It’s easy to find faults with police. But are they always and absolutely useless?

  155. joe,

    I choose not to live in NY and somehow i am not searched….the whole city should be dismantled. Why the hell would you have such a huge finantial system (wall street) in just one city when it could be all over the country really makes no sense to me. Anyway if you choose to live in a city that is ground zero if a terrorist ever gets a hold of a nuke I can say I really have no simpathy for you.

    In the age of instant communication we should be moving to decentralisation…not bitching about be ing searched in a subway.

    wake up the world changed.

  156. Hack,

    I could bother to look up and discuss the details of the thread you seem to remember, but I don’t think that’s the point. joe+something half remembered about Cold War politics = apologist for Stalin, whatever the actual conversation was. As I half-remember it, that was pretty much your position on the thread, too.

    joshua, the most innovative IT companies and the most important financial companies choose to be in major cities, regardless of technological advance, because you can’t use technology to replicate face time and being in the middle of things.

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