Death Penalty & Cop Killers

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the last 24 hours at this:


It is, of course, a terrible occurrence for the families, friends and colleagues affected by it.

For rather more folk, though, it is an unmissable opportunity to re-mount two well-worn hobby horses. Those of arming the police, and of the death penalty.

Let’s deal first with arming the police.

The police have not, ever, been widely armed in the UK. Over time, under cover of the ‘fight against terrorism’, airports, seats of power and so forth have become exceptions. The police have also adopted widespread use of Tasers, which are legally categorised as firearms in the UK meaning we are not allowed to own them and to do so carries the same penalty as holding a live handgun. I’ve written several times in the past about the police and their clumsy, idiotic excursions with Tasers.

In the last post I made on the topic, the police had accidentally shot a 14 year old girl after their intended target ‘dodged the bullet’. Previously, a man was accidentally shot in the groin with a Taser, during a traffic stop.

At least neither of those were accidents with actual guns.

Of those few guns out there under the control of police officers, in 2009, police issued guns were accidentally fired 110 times. At the time of that writing, according to the press, 6868 officers were authorised to use firearms in England and Wales.

In 2012, there are 134,000 police officers in England and Wales. Let us just assume that all officers receive firearms training and authorisation, and that accident rates remain the same, 16 incidents per 1,000 officers, per annum. That means, with all 134,000 of them armed, we could see more than 2100 accidental discharge incidents a year. And we’re assuming here, that the rate would remain the same. This ignores a very sensible notion – that the currently authorised firearms officers are, in fact, the cream of the crop; the most capable and trustworthy of officers. Can we really assume that the rate of incidents would not rise if every common-or-garden journeyman constable was given a shooter?

And lets not miss this opportunity to remember the appalling case of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles De Menezes. Shot to death by Met Police officers while in possession of a foreign accent, two weeks after the 2005 London bombings. If the ‘cream of the crop’ can make such a terrible error as this, what do you honestly think would happen in such a tense atmosphere? Somewhere in the country, someone would eat a bullet for ‘looking funny’ at a copper.

In 1997, in the wake of the Dunblane massacre, the general public were banned from being licensed to possess handguns. The arguments around this are well rehearsed, and those who said that the criminals would remain armed and the lawful public would be disarmed and disadvantaged were correct. Gun crime was not reduced – it doubled in 10 years. Further, so the argument goes, if you arm all police, career criminals who had not previously armed themselves would begin to do so, and gun crime would therefore inevitably rise further. [Somehow this para was lost in the first edit – it’s now back]

The police in Britain (if not the UK overall), are citizens of our society. They are not above us or in someway separate. They are not a paramilitary force. For all they seem to forget the fact, they are still obliged to police according to the Peelian Principles.

The long and short of it is this: The police are the public, therefore if you want to arm the police, you need to allow the lawful public to arm themselves as well. Fail to do this and the Peelian principles are dead and buried. This is what much of the political establishment (and of course, the power-hungry police brass) wants. It must not be allowed to happen.

Now, shall we move on to the death penalty?

As I’ve illustrated above, police officers are fallible. As I’ve written elsewhere, some of them are also corrupt, liars, thugs, thieves, rapists and killers of unborn babies.

The death penalty is much more a question of the judicial end of the criminal justice system, but my first point is that the fallible and sometimes rotten police give evidence in court which carries significantly more weight than that of a defendant, by dint of their implied authority, and by explicit rules of evidence. The police, then, are a major source of fallibility in the court system.

Mistakes do happen in courts, and miscarriages of justice do happen.

When the Guildford Four were found guilty of the Guildford pub bombings in the 1970s, the judge expressed his regret during sentencing, that the death penalty was not open to him. The four were sentenced to prison and their convictions were not overturned until 1989.

Other more recent high profile miscarriages of justice include the strange case of Barry George, convicted in 2001 of the murder of Jill Dando, his conviction then quashed in 2007.

See here for a longer list of such miscarriages, including Derek Bentley who was hanged in 1953, only to be shown innocent in 1998. Also getting a mention in that list are acquitted ‘child killers’ Angela Cannings and Sally Clark – both victims of unreliable ‘expert evidence’ against them. Expert evidence has had weight given to it in court that is simply not warranted. The BBC have another similar list here.

So, do you really want the death penalty back? Particularly, do you want the death penalty to be a ‘specially reserved’ sanction for only the most emotive cases? Do you even want to open the can of worms of why the murder of a police officer would warrant the death penalty, but the raping and killing of a female civilian would not?

If you answered yes, to any of those last three questions, you would probably be more comfortable living in a country like Russia. Please go with haste.


8 thoughts on “Death Penalty & Cop Killers

  1. Well said.

    On a side note, whilst the police have a difficult job, I tire of the constant bleating from Gadget and his pals. The senior constables, (and they are ALL constables, not officers), are as guilty as politicians for the mess of our justice system.

  2. As usual Mr Jahom, you have hit the nail on the head. I have no doubt that the Police have a difficult job and I would not argue with anyone who says that the Government should provide whatever training and manpower resources that they require. The gutter press are not friends of the Police however, they are cynical, manipulative, vultures who will pretend to support whatever section of society that allows them to pursue their own right wing agenda.

  3. The death penalty cannot be justified in a civilised society, although the Brady case is interesting as if he is neglected, he’ll die faster.

    What gets me, is where did the grenade come from? Are you allowed to own these under licence or order them off the internet? I’d never use it, ….of course.

  4. I’ll disagree with you on the death penalty, but on the topic of arming the police, I wonder if the news that one WAS armed (with Taser) and didn’t get a chance to use it,. so taken by surprise were they, will cool the ardour of those wishing to use this example as a lever?

  5. As an ordinary Police Constable, just want to add my thoughts if that is ok. I don’t want to be armed with a weapon other than the baton and CS spray i now possess. I have carried live firearms in the military and believe i could do so quite easily now, .

    Personally, the balance is just about right as it is, armed support being not too far away. I, along with many Officers out on the street could tell of many occasions when we have been close to suffering serious or even fatal injury.

    I agree that the public are the police and the police are the public sentiments. You will agree then that the public are far from perfect and so it is unsurprising when the police occasionally turn out to be so. Being human, i don’t want to have any more serious injuries or suffer death just because of the job i do.

    My perception is that we are going to far more incidents where suspects are suffering mental health and drug problems. That is aside from those who have immersed themselves in a ‘gangster-culture’. As it stands, i admire anyone who is willing to now join up. Altough i have never been in trouble, no complaints against me, do the best i can, i have to carry the failings of everyone else who lets the Sevice down. It is a collective shame that i don’t believe many occupations suffer.

    The nature of the job is high conflict and split second decision at times. It is not that police are above the public, the idea of harsher sentence for killing of police is to protect the public who join the police to place themselves in danger. It will never happen though….whilst other countries have specific offences to combat abuse of public servants, we do not. It is required of me to be of sterner stuff….to put up with being sworn at and ridiculed so long as no other members of the public are about. So i put up with it, i need the job to support my family.

    So i guess…..i think we have the balance right as it now stands. We do need to have firearms support for when people are shooting at us and the public. We do need Taser as a non-lethal option, but careful monitoring of its use. One of our local hardmen has been tasered several times….he regards it almost like a badge of honour. If we went just hands on he would cause us injury and we would no doubt cause him more in subduing him.

    And if someone kills me whilst i am on duty, i would not wish the death penalty for them. Others may have a different view. It’s not really possible to walk in someones else’s shoes to get a different perspective, unless you all become Special Constables?

    Oh and JuliaM…i like you. But i would say that soldiers in Afghanistan have weapons but it doesn’t stop them from being ambushed and killed. We don’t ask them not to have firearms. Yes the Officer had a Taser and if she had been going to a call of a mental person with a knife then she would have parked a distance away and have the weapon ready to discharge. This came in as a routine call.

    I can empathise with some of the Officers on the Police Gadget Blog….when you spend your day under the threat of violent or verbal attack, you can expect a certain amount of defensiveness. If it helps rid themselves of stress and frustration by venting, good luck to them.

    Regards to you all.

  6. very well put AJ – in fact I’m expecting similar calls for the death penalty from the burning torch and pitchfork brigade for the man arrested over the disappearance of April Jones this week (who AFAIK hasn’t even been charged yet let alone convicted)

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