Police chiefs back tactics on suicide bomb suspects

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The Independent Online

Police tactics for dealing with suspected suicide bombers were backed by senior officers today, despite the fatal shooting of innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes last year.

Lawyers for the de Menezes family have criticised the review by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) which said its plans for dealing with suspected bombers were "fit for purpose".

The legal team has called for an open and independent inquiry, and accused Acpo of trying to pre-determine the outcome.

The report has called for the police's anti-suicide bomber tactics to be clearly explained in a leaflet available to the public.

Acpo acknowledged that it was still awaiting the views of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which has carried out an investigation into the killing of Mr de Menezes on July 22 last year.

Acpo president Sir Chris Fox said: "I am pleased that the existing policy has been deemed fit for purpose and we now await any IPCC recommendations.

"The police service has an overriding duty to protect life, and occasionally, in discharging its duty, force is used.

"Very rarely officers, in order to save life, may have to take life."

He added: "While we await the IPCC findings of their investigation into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes to decide if the policy needs to be revised further, we felt it necessary to be sure we have tactics available to us that we can use in the face of extreme threat and this review was therefore undertaken.

"Police officers faced with a threat have to identify and assess the threat and manage it.

"They must then use only such force as is proportionate in the circumstances, which may be negotiation or the use of force.

"Where it is absolutely necessary, lethal force might have to be used."

In a statement, lawyers for the de Menezes family said it was "no coincidence" the police decision was released on the same day a television programme on the shooting and police policy was broadcast: "Until Jean Charles de Menezes was deliberately killed, no one knew that police in this country had secretly introduced for themselves, without any democratic debate or approval, a 'shoot to kill' policy.

"Now Acpo seeks to reinstate the secret policy publicly before any inquiry into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes is completed, confident that police can hide behind the claim that a criminal investigation is still under way."

The statement from Harriet Wistrich, Gareth Peirce and Marcia Willis-Stewart of Birnberg Peirce & Partners called for a public inquiry to investigate the killing.

It said: "The sooner a proper, open and public inquiry can take place which examines exactly what happened from start to finish in respect of the deliberate killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, the better.

"The family of Jean Charles de Menezes has always been sure that a proper examination will reveal not just the potential illegality of individual actions of police officers but the illegality of the policy underlying the operation as a whole.

"It is not for Acpo to attempt to pre-determine the outcome."

Acpo reviewed policies which were drawn up in the wake of the September 11 2001 attacks in the United States.

Police deny that their tactics are "shoot to kill", with Scotland Yard preferring to call it "shoot to incapacitate".

The review backed the policies from a technical perspective but said aspects relating to command structures, firearms training, communications and intelligence management should be reviewed once the IPCC had reported.

Work to standardise firearms training should be speeded up, it added.

Tactics should be "clearly articulated" in a public leaflet, it said, and communities should be involved in developing suicide terrorism policies.

The Met's Operation Kratos strategy involves police marksmen shooting suicide bomb suspects in the head with no warning to stop them detonating the device.

Mr de Menezes, a 27-year-old electrician, was shot seven times in the head at Stockwell Tube station after being mistaken for a suicide bomber.

The IPCC has completed its investigation into his death and sent its report to the Crown Prosecution Service, which is still considering whether to charge any of the Met officers involved in the operation.

It was claimed in a newspaper report in January that undercover police officers changed a surveillance log to hide the fact they had mistakenly identified Mr de Menezes as a suspected suicide bomber.