Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Belated post on Stockwell shooting

I didn't post about the young Brazilian man who was killed by armed police in Stockwell. My emotional response was 'men with guns are excited by opportunities to fire them' but my intellectual response was that the police probably had very good reason to believe he was a suicide bomber, and their actions were tragic but understandable. My intellectual analysis put a rein on my instinct.

However this Observer article seems to undermine my intellectual case.

"de Menezes wasn't wearing a heavy jacket. He used his card to get into the station. He didn't vault the barrier." He didn't run away when the police said stop. The police never identified themseves as police. and so on

Furthermore, we were told that CTV footage from Stockwell station would prove the guy's suspicious behaviour, but the authorities now say "most of the cameras in the station were not working." Not working?

I was at school with a guy who became a member of an armed police unit. He was one of the most calm, humorous, and likeable people one might imagine. Not at all macho - he had long blond girly hair and wore flowery shirts. I think he would handle a situation like this very well, and I think the fact he was chosen by the police for a crack squad speaks very well of their selection procedures.

Nevertheless I think many people, in dealing with anxiety, find violent reponse cathartic. Anxiety may be the most corrosive human emotion. If doing something violent relieves anxiety then there is a human tendency to act violently, and to defend violent action. It happens all the time in personal and public life. The forced 'confessions' of the Birmingham pub bombing suspects is my personal touchstone for this. Revenge is so sweet, that we imagine we are taking revenge when we are just persecuting innocent people.

Therefore policy, such as policy on torture and shoot to kill, must be framed to take this human tendency into account, and limit the damage it does. What concerns me is that we are going the wrong way, and pandering to the tendency.
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