@AdemanDeloya – I did previously have some time for Keith Vaz – but I’ve promptly changed my mind…

@AdemanDeloya – I did previously have some time for Keith Vaz – but I’ve promptly changed my mind…


May 25, 2013 · by AdemanDeloya · in Uncategorized

With the tedious predictability that has become the hallmark of what the UK newspaper industry is pleased to call ‘journalism’, the first article criticising the police response to the shocking events in Woolwich has appeared. Like the first crocus heralding the dawn of spring, any hope of discussing, and thereby making some progress in dealing with, whatever might have caused two young men to hack off a soldier’s head with machetes, will slowly be lost amongst the same, tired, lazy, cliché-ridden wittering contest about what the police did and did not do.

For a change, the Guardian has been beaten to the punch by its unlikely ally in the beat-up-the-cops-at-all-costs stakes, the Daily Telegraph, which echoes Labour MP Keith Vaz in demanding to know why the unarmed police officers who attended the scene within nine minutes chose not to engage the machete-wielding terrorist murderers, and instead ‘allowed’ several women to walk up to them and try and talk to them. Mr. Vaz, we are informed, will be asking for a “full explanation why this was the case.”

Well, Mr. Vaz, permit me to explain. I know it may come as something as a shock to someone who ‘works’ in the House of Commons, but the police officers who turned up first, armed only with a collapsible metal stick and a tin of hot sauce, were not actually little mobile law enforcement drones. They were human beings. They were men and women who, despite wearing the uniform that makes them such an easy target for your cowardly rear-echelon sniping, are actually capable of the full range of human emotions. I imagine that they didn’t wander up to the – dare I use the phrase again? Yes, I think I do – machete-wielding terrorist murderers because they were afraid. Unfortunately the world most of us have to live in – those of us who don’t flit between constituency offices and lavishly-appointed palaces in Westminster while surrounded by a ring of armed guards – is a dangerous and violent place, and the wearing of a police uniform does nothing to make it any safer. We in the police are constantly reminded of the need to be circumspect when dealing with any suspected terrorist incident, and even with non-terror-related murders, because apparently it is becoming fashionable to lure police to a scene with the express intention of murdering them. We are just people, doing an impossible job the best we can, and we like everyone else would rather like to get home to our families at the end of the day in our cars, rather than boxes. It would be wonderful if we didn’t have to count that as a consideration, but in that make-believe world in which people never deliberately lure the police to their deaths, PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes would still be walking the beat. The police officers at the scene were not equipped to deal with the suspects in front of them, so they had to wait for those who were.

So much for why we didn’t march onto the points of the machetes. The reason we ‘allowed’ people to walk up to the suspects is as follows: there was nothing we could do about it. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to close off a busy London street with a school on it in the middle of the afternoon, but it’s very difficult and it takes quite a lot of police officers. You can create a perimeter and stop people from entering if you have enough officers, which of course, this being the UK, we don’t; but to clear out the people that are already in there takes an awful lot of time and, ultimately, if passers by don’t want to leave, and you can’t go in after them (for reasons I think I mentioned somewhere above) then in they stay. As we never tire of being reminded, we don’t live in a police state. If people want to walk up to blood stained extremists with machetes in their hands, there is only so much we can do to stop them, especially from a distance.

So instead of charging merrily to our deaths, we took the only option available to us. We set up at a safe distance, did what we could to keep innocent people out of harm’s way, and waited for armed backup to arrive, which it did within five minutes, during which time, happily, no other lives were lost. It could easily have been otherwise. So if you genuinely want to avoid seeing the dispiriting picture of police officers standing back from a life-threatening incident, there is one option available to you. Arm all police. It really is that simple. There are precisely zero other ways of stopping what we saw in Woolwich. You will never, no matter how much you whinge about law changes and ‘full explanations’, be able to order police officers to commit mass seppuku. You give us the equipment we sometimes need to do our jobs effectively, or you stand back and watch us not do our jobs effectively. Those are your choices.

Unfortunately, we all know which choice Parliament will take. Arming all police requires politicians to face up to the reality that there are people on our streets filled with murderous hatred towards us, our people, our women and children, our institutions, the fabric of our society, and that protecting yourself from such reasonless and violent hatred sometimes requires nothing more or less than being able to kill those people before they kill you. It isn’t pretty, it isn’t pleasant, and it isn’t easy. And because it isn’t easy, no politician will do it. Instead they stand back and snipe at men and women far braver, more hard-working and more principled than they are, they make fine speeches and fancy themselves statesmenlike. They vacillate, they prevaricate, they shift whenever the wind does. Arming all police requires them to stand up to the loud, intolerant, impossibly right-on centre-left Twitterati who simply cannot be convinced that life isn’t an Islington dinner party, and are willing to sacrifice seemingly limitless numbers of soldiers, police officers and ordinary members of the public to preserve their agreeable little fantasy. We do not have politicians of the calibre required to do this.

So here ends my explanation of why the police stood back: we used to have statesmen, who looked unblinkingly at reality, and saw it look unblinkingly back. Now we have Keith Vaz.

Ademan Deloya is on Twitter. Follow him on @AdemanDeloya

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