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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘military

Moat’s Last Moments. Are All Our Policemen Wonderful?

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Almost Over

On Friday night they had Raoul Moat cornered at last.  It was the culmination of something more akin to a military invasion than a reasonable response to just one deranged nutter.   Northumbria Police had already made fools of themselves but we were all biting our lips,  not yet protesting, hoping against hope that there would be no further casualties.

The first photographs from the stand-off were released and they clearly showed police pointing tasers.  On BBC News the ex-police firearms expert was interviewed and asked why a taser couldn’t be used to disable Moat.  He answered quite unequivocally that using a taser when a man has a gun pointed at his head was more than likely to result in him firing the weapon involuntarily.

First thing on Saturday morning and it was no surprise to learn that Moat was dead.  What was utterly shocking was to learn that two tasers had been fired and the recording broadcast by the BBC revealed the shouting before the sound of the shotgun blast.  The unavoidable conclusion is that exactly what the firearms expert had predicted was what happened.

I don’t have any sympathy for Moat.  As far as I’m concerned a good case could have been made for him being shot on sight but I am very, very unhappy with the way the police handled the affair.

All Over Now

It may be that the denouement itself was handled properly.  We will never know what really happened however many inquiries we have.  What I am certain of is that overall the police should have done much better.  Those far, far better qualified to judge than me have already said as much.  I speak only as a concerned citizen.

I really worry about our police service.  While I believe there are many brave, honourable coppers, some of whom are highly skilled,  there are too many worrying indications that our police service is not up to the job.

There’s thuggery and the rank-closing covering-up and justification of it.  There’s the appalling canteen culture which is at the root of all the institutionalised racism, thuggery and freemasonry.  There’s the amateurish approach of senior officers who seem barely competent at times.  There is inevitably some corruption but also a long-running deception that the decision to prosecute is at arms length.  The police decide who to investigate in the first place. The CPS and the police eat in the same canteen

Look at the brutality of the police, the TSG in particular, at the Gaza and G20 protests and how they’ve got away with it.  Look at the Inspector Gadget police website for an insight into the disgusting attitude of many officers.   Look at the management of situations like the Cumbrian shootings and the Raoul Moat affair and the use of ludicrous, self-evidently bad ideas like the “kettling” at the Gaza and G20 protests.  Look at the income generation from speed cameras promoted by some chief constables.  Look at the absurd, intrusive, wildly excessive use of CCTV.  Look at the ridiculous administration routines that many chief constables have imposed.  Look at the insistence on retaining the DNA of innocent people.

The police are now very well paid.  A starting police officer gets about twice as much as a starting soldier.   They have wonderful pension arrangements.  They’re also excused, let off and get away with behaviour that should never be allowed.  Look at the thug, Sergeant Delroy Smellie , who repeatedly beat Nicola Fisher at the G20 protest and got away with it, or the officer who assaulted Ian Tomlinson, who later died, and who has still not been charged over a year later.

All the brave, honourable coppers are let down by those bad apples which myopic “support” of the police allows to rot and infect the rest.

The British police service needs a shake up.  It is complacent and inefficient.  Excellent work is done in anti-terrorism and organised crime but the truth is not all our policemen are wonderful.  We need to face up to that truth and make some changes.  Perhaps locally elected police chiefs are a way forward.

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Yet Again the MOD Fails Our Heroes

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Hercules XV179, Call Sign "Hilton 22"

Hercules XV179, Call Sign Hilton 22

I hope that I never have to experience the reality of war. but, I think like every man, I am fascinated with how I would behave in combat.  We all want to be heroes and, as I have read, courage is often forged from the fear of disgrace.  The idea of letting down one’s comrades can be more frightening than bullets or explosions.

Even during the Second World War, I would now be deemed too old to fight.  They won’t even have me in the TA, much as I would love to volunteer.  Yet every day, right this very minute, there are men and women younger than my own children, who are being called on to put themselves in mortal danger on our behalf.

Our Hercules Heroes

Our Hercules Heroes

These people deserve the very, very best that we can do for them.  Clearly, the reality of combat means that there will be times when circumstances are less than ideal.  Ammunition may run out.  It might have been preferable to have larger calibre weapons given the force that the enemy deployed.  If air cover had arrived earlier, lives may have been saved. The very nature of combat is that it is unpredictable but when there are lessons to be learned it is imperative that they are studied in depth and acted upon.

Why, oh why, is there episode after episode where the MOD refuses to acknowledge its failings and seems to duck and dive to avoid responsibility? This isn’t about civil service office politics, about covering one’s back or manouvering for promotion.  This is about death and pain and blood and grief.  It’s about mothers who will never see their sons again, about fit, healthy, beautiful bodies and minds that are broken, twisted and consigned to the scrapheap with – yet another scandal – insultingly inadequate financial support.

The Steve Jones Memorial Bench

Steve Jones was an SAS Lance Corporal on board the Hercules shot down over Baghdad in 2005. When I first came across the memorial bench on Thorney Island (see http://pjroldblog.wordpress.com/2008/06/22/walking-the-dog-2/) I was deeply moved and when I returned there a few months later to find a memorial book full of glowing tributes and commendations, I felt that this story was one I wanted to take further.

So I made contact with the MOD press office and very tentatively enquired what support they might be able to offer me with a further story, perhaps even a documentary.  A very charming female Wing Commander seemed interested and said that two of the men on the Hercules had been personal friends.  The Army though were different.  I received a courteous but frosty reception and was told that there was no question of being put in touch with the victims’ families.

I can understand, of course, that some of the families will just want to move on and that journalistic investigation may prolong their grief.  In the end it was made clear to me that while the MOD wouldn’t stand in my way, it believed that the story had already been exhausted and wouldn’t offer me any support.

I have been an MOD spin doctor myself.  Some years ago I was the communications advisor to the Assistant Chief of Staff, UK Support Command on the launch of the British Forces in Germany Health Service. The year that I spent working at Joint Headquarters in Rheindahlen gave me an insight into the services that I am very grateful for.  One memory is of the extraordinary combination of austerity and luxury that I experienced while staying in the Officers Mess.  My room was like a prison cell but in the morning there was silver service at breakfast as I sat at a huge four inch thick mahogany table surrounded by oil paintings, regimental colours and memorabilia. There was no menu.  I could just order whatever it was that took my fancy.

My overwhelming memory though is of the incomparable integrity of the people I worked with.  It left me with a feeling (entirely undeserved) of connection with the military and an understanding of how one really could trust the man next to you with your life.

In the extraordinary age in which we live, when cocaine-fuelled w**nker bankers abuse their customers and the taxpayer, when venal politicians grub around in the muck on billionaires’ yachts, whilst in Afghanistan our boys lay their lives on the line in medieval conditions, it is time that the MOD displayed a fraction of the courage that men like Steve Jones have and admitted its failings to start the process of putting them right.

For the full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7683909.stm