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Columns : Editorial

Head Shots

A tragic mistake by the British police illustrates the repercussions of terrorism and its effect on public safety policies and procedures.

September 01, 2005  |  by - Also by this author

Even the summers in England were cold to Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes. So on July 22 when the temperatures in South London were balmy to the locals, Menezes was bundled up in a coat.

Unfortunately, Menezes’ unusual choice of dress for a “hot” day attracted the attention of British police who were vigilantly watching the subway stations for potential suicide bombers. British anti-terrorism officers followed Menezes, 27, from a block of homes that was suspected to be a haven for Islamic extremists to the entrance of an Underground station. Police say they then ordered him to stop, but Menezes, an illegal alien, ran for a train.

Now imagine yourself in the place of those British officers. London has been under attack by suicide bombers who target public transit. A man in a coat on a hot day has just left a suspect building. You have ordered him to stop, and he is now running for a train. What do you do?

Here’s what the British police did. They wrestled Menezes to the ground, pinned his arms and legs, and shot him several times in the head in front of horrified commuters.

The Menezes shooting sparked a firestorm of controversy and triggered an international incident. Brazil says the British police were trigger happy. British police say that under the same circumstances, conditions, and evidence they would shoot to kill again.

And you bet they would. As Police has documented in several articles on suicide bombers, there’s really only one way to stop these determined terrorists: kill them before they can detonate. The best way to do that is a double-tap to the head.

Perhaps one of you reading this magazine will have to make the decision of whether to shoot a suspected suicide bomber in the head rather than let him or her kill innocent Americans. If you do find yourself in this position, pray that the person you shoot is actually a terrorist wearing a bomb belt and that your agency has use-of-force policies and procedures to cover your actions.

If the International Association of Chiefs of Police has its way, such policies may actually be in effect by the time an American cop has to drop the hammer on a suicide bomber. IACP is trying to convince American agencies that they need to draft such “shoot-to-kill” policies for suicide bombers now, before they are needed. This is amazingly realistic thinking for the IACP, which is often too politically correct for its own good.

Of course, the IACP guidelines were met with wails of protest and with concerns about “racial” profiling from the usual quarters. The extremely active and vocal Council on American-Islamic Relations decried the IACP guidelines because the tactics advocated are the same as those used by a “foreign government engaged in a brutal occupation of another people.”

I guess CAIR believes that American officers should take their anti-terrorism tactics from some place other than Israel. OK. How about Sri Lanka? The Sri Lankan police have dealt with suicide bombings by the Tamil Tigers, and their policy is…well…it’s shoot the bombers in the head before they can detonate.

And I have news for CAIR. Odds are real slim that Tamil Tiger suicide bombers will try to turn a subway train in D.C., Chicago, New York, or San Francisco into an inferno. If suicide bombers start killing civilians in America, you can bet that they will be the same kind of Islamic extremists who walk onto buses full of Israeli children and murder them without remorse.

IACP has to stand its ground on this issue, regardless of pressure from CAIR or any other interest group. And American law enforcement needs to formulate tactics and policies to counter suicide bombers and cover their officers now before these terrorists begin to target America’s cities. They’re coming. We know it. It’s just a matter of time.


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