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London death shows North policing problems not unique

Eamonn McCann • Sunday Journal, 28 August 2005

One British newspaper concluded last week that "We may never get to the bottom" of the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Oh, I don't know. I'd have thought we could already make a fair fist at grasping the facts.

It's true we don't know exactly what was in the mind of the cop who pumped seven bullets into the head of the Brazilian electrician as he was held down by the killer's accomplices in a tube train at Stockwell on July 22. But we know what lies were told afterwards, and the purpose of these lies.

And it's there we'll find lessons for ourselves.

Metropolitan police chief Ian Blair insists that he spoke in good faith when he claimed the dead man had been "directly linked" to anti-terrorist operations: this is what the police had genuinely believed at the time.

No so. The soldier attached to the Met. (that's interesting in itself) who'd observed Jean leaving the building where he lived had noted, "A U/I (unidentified) male IC1 (white) 5ft. 8in. Dark hair beard/stubble."

But the Met. already had CCTV footage of the suspect they'd staked out and knew that this bore no resemblance. For example, the suspect was black.

Blair made much of a suggestion that Jean had been suspiciously dressed for a warm summer's day and had been carrying something that looked like a rucksack. Again, Blair insists this was the Met's honest understanding at the time. But the soldier on stake-out had noted Jean wearing "blue denim jacket, blue jeans and wearing trainers…not carrying anything."

A pathologist's report, written five days after the killing and in the presence of senior police officers, noted that Jean "vaulted over the ticket barriers (and) ran down the stairs of the tube station."

Why this sort of detail should have been included in a pathologist's report, and how come the report came to be written under the eyes of senior police officers, remains unexplained.

Even more perplexing: by the time the report was written the police knew that Jean had made his way through the barrier using his travelcard, picked up a free newspaper and then walked at normal speed down onto the platform.

While circulating false stories on the day of the killing, Blair found time to write to the permanent secretary at the Home Office urging that no independent inquiry be set up but the investigation be left to the police themselves.

It took three days of argument before Blair gave way and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) obtained access to Stockwell station.

By then, no CCTV footage from July 22 was available. The line of the Met. is that the tapes weren't retained because they turned out to be blank. But underground workers say this isn't plausible. One senior union official said last week: "There was nothing wrong with the cameras. The tapes are replaced every night as a matter of course."

In a joint statement on Friday, the lawyers for the de Menezes family, Harriet Wistrich and Gareth Peirce, described police claims to have based their statements on their knowledge at the time as "inconceivable".

Typical lawyerly understatement. The rest of us might prefer "bare-faced lie", "cock-and-bull story", "blatant propaganda," "cover-up" or something such.

Over the five weeks since the killing, many commentators here have made the sound point that we've been through this sort of sordid episode before, more than once. Few, however, have drawn what seems to me the obvious conclusion: that policing problems here do not arise solely or mainly from the particular conditions of Northern Ireland but must be rooted in characteristics of society shared with London.

Similarly, the corruption which Frank McBrearty has shown goes to the heart of the Gardai tell us that these characteristics are shared also with the 26 Counties.

It follows that no solution to policing problems here can be found merely by reorganisation of local circumstances.

The PSNI is already more accountable than the Met. Nuala O'Loan wouldn't have had to wait three hours, much less days, and wouldn't require any go-ahead from the chief constable, before descending upon the scene of a killing by the PSNI.

The endless chatter in these parts about making the PSNI more accountable and policing boards and partnerships more representative is an exercise in avoiding the real argument.

Cops is cops the whole world over. No number of Shinners on the board or Provies in uniform will change that.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

29 August 2005

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Evident Steps Needs Support
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Reading the Tea Leaves
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London death shows North policing problems not unique
Eamonn McCann

Mo Mowlam
David Adams

A Snapshot of Gerry Fitt
Fr Sean Mac Manus

The Big Picture in Colombia
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Fred A Wilcox

Times Are A-Changing
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Blame Vulture Capitalism, not God, for Pat Robertson!
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Of Lesser Imps and Demons
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No Victory So Sweet
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Changes Needed All Over
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Get Tough Now
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What for the Future?
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Why has Gerry Adams never finished Ulysses?
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Bombing London is No Longer Good News for the IRA
Anthony McIntyre

The Conflict Encapsulated
David Adams

No More Second Class Citizens
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Nothing Has Changed
Anthony McIntyre

Venezuela: Lessons of Struggle
Tomas Gorman



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