Monday, 5 July 2010

Going Dutch on arming the police

Once again we have a gunman at large, bent on killing, but on this occasion he seems to be much more discriminating as opposed to the still very recent Cumbrian indiscriminate murder spree. And we can call the latter `murder`, only because the killer was never tried and therefore was denied the chance of being found guilty of the lesser charge of `Manslaughter` on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

I was up early this morning, which was odd as I didn't get in bed until 2am having had a slamming evening's work that left me with the `thousand yard stare` and an addled brain. It was that same addled brain that got me up at 6am and I spent the time wisely, drinking tea and reading some of my favourite blogs. As expected, the Polis flavoured variety are all commenting on the Northumbria gunman who, as I tap this out, is still `at large` and putting innocent lives at great risk of being snuffed out in the blink of an eye and the twitch of a finger on a trigger. Once again, I suspect the weapon will be a shotgun, based on the bitty facts as released in the news media. The blog debates are once again buzzing with the subject of arming our police, the ills of our society, its laws, its judicial system, Kenneth Clarke and penal policy. Time for Cleggeron and the team to be wise, again. We await their brief with interest.

When I studied for my degree, I spent time looking at the Dutch criminal justice and prison system. The Dutch have, arguably, one of the most liberal of democracies in Europe. The Dutch invented probation, back in the 1800's. They are a small country, about the size of Wales. They are highly sophisticated in their outlook on life, the universe and everything. Their police force consists of a two-tier system of direct senior officer` entry, where after a spell at the police college in Apeldoorn, a graduate can start their police career at inspector rank. The sharp enders start, like us in the UK, by joining as Pc's and can progress to senior sergeant and can then be selected for promotion through the glass ceiling and join their direct entry, fast track colleagues, albeit with much greater street experience.

They also had an interesting attitude to the use of force. They had these amazing lightweight public order vehicles, made out of a type of plastic, but fire resistant. They called them `Tupperware vans`. I was impressed at how well protected they seemed to be, yet they looked so innocuous. I was on foot patrol with a senior sergeant in a suburb of Amsterdam. We stopped for an ice cream and stood on a street corner eating our cones. He had his hat off in the heat of the day, hooking it onto his very nifty 9mm Walther P6 pistol that sat on his belt, along with his cuffs and CS.  I asked him about his rules of engagement re the use of his pistol. He said it was based on the premise that he was to do all he could to preserve life and that he could use his pistol as a warning. I then showed him an ASP baton that I was hoping to persuade my force to adopt (successfully, as it turned out) and he said, "Hogday, put that away please, its an offensive weapon". We both saw the amusing irony of the moment we were in. Him with his gun, gas and ice cream, worried about me holding an extendable baton and a Mister Softee `99`.

I said that in the UK, we only drew our firearm from its holster if we intended to use it. He asked me what I would do if a man was coming for me or an MoP armed with a big knife or a sword. I said I would draw my weapon, warn the person, if I considered I had the time, and then if he failed to comply I would shoot at him and continue to do so until I perceived he was no longer a threat. He was amazed that I would not try to shoot him in the legs first. I explained that in the UK (at that time - 1991) we took the view that if potential lethal force was required, then potentially lethal it would have to be and that I couldn't guarantee public safety with stray rounds passing through his legs and skipping off the pavement into some passing child in a buggy. I also told him of some of the knife attacks I had been shown in my personal defence and firearms training and that I, for one, would not be pissing about with anyone wielding a knife and especially a sword - a case of `the gun is mightier than the sword, but only if you can get off accurate shots before the bastard closes the gap`. Vive la difference?

Their attitude to crime and the criminal is also very interesting. I was attending a presentation at their police staff college (senior officers) on criminality, its causes and cures. At the end of the session, the lecturer, a Professor, asked us UK guys a very interesting question; "What criminological theory do you base your juvenile cautioning policy on?"  It was then that I really knew I was in a strange land indeed.


Blue Eyes said...

Now here's a post to get the neurons snapping on a Monday.

Your final point I think is the most interesting. In this country I am not sure we know exactly what we want the criminal justice system to achieve.

For a trivial example, what is a cannabis warning actually doing for anyone?

Blue Eyes said...

Just noticed: ties but no hats!

Hogday said...

Hi Blue: Well a hat won't kill you!

Conan the Librarian™ said...

The pen is mightier than the sword.
But only if you get in close and jam it in an eye.

LL said...

Putting ordnance on target at the appropriate time against the appropriate target, is what keeps the door at the zoo locked.

Without it, the vernier of civilization peels off and anarchy reigns.

CI-Roller Dude said...

When you boil it all down to the basics, there are only a few types of people:
1.) Badguys (suspects)
2.) Victims
3.) Good Guys (Cops)
4.) Everybody else.

If a badguy is coming after a good guy with a knife or other deadly weapon, and the good guy doesn't respond in the correct method, the good guy is now in the victim catagory. Cops should never be victims as they do the citizens absolutly no good at that point and become a total waste of taxpayers money when they are wounded or dead.

Our R.O.E. in the US are a little different. We shoot to stop....and sometimes just by pointing a bigass gun at some badguy does the job and we don't have to pull the trigger. It helps if you can make a scary face to.

Blue Eyes said...

"It helps if you can make a scary face"

CIRD, that is where I would go wrong. In the ridiculously unlikely event that I was ever one of the good guys chasing down one of the bad guys he would probably take one look at me, laugh then come back and give me a hug. Gun or no gun.

Hogday said...

Conan: Spoken like a true librarian (from Scotland, that is :))

LL: Now that, Sir, is what I call part of the armoury of subtle social control`. As I've said on another police blog today in response to a comment that argued `the public are the police and the police the public`; that is a nice cosy theory, but the public don't pass a selection test to be allowed to become `the public`, nor is there a standard level of competence to reach in order to become a member of said amorphus lump called `the public`. Thanks again for dropping by.

As an aside, I believe that dear old Lenin was attributed with words to the effect that, "when force is used, it must be used totally and decisively....but it is also prudent to blend a disagreement with an argument or a manoeuvre".

CI-RD: Good analogy, with which I concur. 45 Desert Eagle speaks louder than words (and you get a nice echo down the barrel, too).

Blue: You scare ME sometimes and I haven't even seen your face ;)

JuliaM said...

"He was amazed that I would not try to shoot him in the legs first. "

That's something that often draws ridicule on public forums when people ask why you don't shoot to wound (as if a well-placed bullet in the leg couldn't kill as easily as one in the chest).

Odd to see it from a police officer!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

We tend to be dismissive of the police
we need protecting
we need someone to knock on a door when things have gone wrong
etc etc.

Hogday said...

JuliaM: A good point. Yes, I was amazed, too. The fact remains that a firearm is lethal force and every time one is used, one has to always consider that death is the likely outcome, hence the introduction of more and more `sub lethal` munitions such as Taser, baton rounds, `bean bags` fired from shotguns etc.

The problem with these, is that you still have to have the lethal option deployed and standing shoulder to shoulder with the sub-lethal, in case it doesn't stop the atrocious crime. I once read a statement from a villain who said he shot the security guard in the legs `just as a warning`. We clearly cannot rely on villains knowing about the femoral artery either, can we.

G O Ken: Thanks for taking the time to comment.

JuliaM said...

Well, comparing policing methods in armed situations clearly brings the UK out on top. But when it comes to memorable theme songs, I think Holland is a lot closer to Britain....

Anonymous said...

I taught in Amsterdam for a while and found the Dutch very agreeable. on trams people, seeing I was British, would point out all manner of tourist destinations I didn't want to see. Students piled into my classes once it got round that I told jokes, and wasn't stupid enough to want to drink coffee in coffee shops and was moonlighting playing the piano on the piano barge. They let me do Freud lectures playing blues and the Principal sometimes breakfasted on Heineken with me in his office. A cop with unruly hair showed me the red light district and the hard drug scene as I swapped Soho stories for the privilege. He was impressed with my lack of libidinous interest. They are actually much more conservative and moral than us, taking liberalism much more seriously than our whining left. I think,even if I tried to hide it Hoggie, you would spot the irony in any question I put to one of our finest, on criminological theory!
The English have said the devil shits Dutchmen, but we should go Dutch. Their legal system is for this century and is much cheaper than ours, which might interest politicians. Even they had 'Provos' though and politicians we sweep under the BNP carpet here.
Shooting bad guys is a good thing, though we need to guard against 'Panzer Kettle' types - a character in my novel most definitely not based on you or yours truly, though we probably both worked with the original. Panzer was a good cop,which made up for his failings as a human being only in the eyes of his mother...

Anonymous said...

I return briefly, just to say this guy Moat must be a work of fiction! I get close in the book with Merlin Drage, a local drug-dealer with Stalinist leanings, but Moat takes the biscuit! Pity we can't toss a coin for who takes the shot Hog. If you won, you just might let me do it on seeing the sorrow in my eyes!

Anonymous said...

In most places, here in the US, we are trained to "stop the threat" in a deadly force situation. This means shooting the suspect center mass (upper torso) or in the head. We are taught that it is tactically unsound to shoot for arms or legs, since those are small targets, easy to miss, especially in high-stress situations.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and by the way, that two-tier system sounds really interesting. It reminds me of the military where young college punks can go to Officer Candidates School and get themselves a commission, while very few enlisted men ever make it to the commissioned ranks.

Hogday said...

ACO: I concur with your views on The Netherlands. I have been an admirer of their system for 20 years and have occasionally written articles championing same. The blank looks I used to get (mainly from ACPO ranks or aspiring rimmers)remains an abiding memory that always makes me smile. As for the killer on the loose, no compunction whatsoever. What grips is the fact that in the face of all the evidence of this particular case, our finest are still under the threat of prosecution in their use of force. In this case, he or she who hesitates is lost.

Spark`: Same rules over here. Shoot to stop the atrocious act. Point of aim ditto. John Wayne (RIP) was never available to shoot legs, arms or pistols from hands.

As for the 2 tier entry system, despite being sceptical, I actually saw a lot of good in the way they did it. There's always exceptions, but their inspectors were expected to lead and be seen to do so. We both know there will always be a proportion who couldn't lead a charge on a urinal, but hey, that's what sergeants are there for, eh?

Blue Eyes said...

I gather there has been a fast-track scheme in the UK police service for "graduates". The difference I suspect would be that most Dutch graduates have actually learned something in their studies. The problem in this country is that lots of people think they have been educated when they are given a piece of paper with the word "degree" on it.

Hogday said...

Blue: I've just met one in my new job. Classic case. Nowhere near as good as he thinks he is. The time when he will find this out cometh soon ;)

As for fast-track in the UK, there is no focus on leadership, particularly as the fast trackers share the same track as everyone else. Its too much of a jumble sale.

Dispatcher Sassy Pants said...

The ASP is an offense weapon? How cute.

Hogday said...

Hi Ms Sassy Pants and welcome. Yes, how quaint indeed :) [like his 9mm Walther P6 wasn't :-/

Its a Dutch thang, we wouldn't understand!

Anonymous said...

Blue Eyes hits the two-tier entry problem here square on. I would favour a critical reasoning test if we were to do it. Degrees per se are worthless here now. Education is much more sophisticated in Northern Europe.
Leadership is something else Hog. We seem to produce some awful bullies here and the vile rimmers. We pay too much for it too. In the services we learn to do it and take it building spirit. The old slave-overseer model seems back across a lot of society perhaps because there is a surfeit of workers.

Anonymous said...

Well, Moat is dead. RIP his victim and god speed recovery to those he injured. Some media drip is blaming the rain. I tend to the view my negotiation skills, lying as they do in my right index finger, may have saved only a couple of hours. We seemed to do these jobs with a borrowed .303 and an armoury of words like 'come on chum,play the white man'. How long before all we remember is the bad hairdo?

Anonymous said...

On short memories, some media drone is now saying the details won't come out because Moat has saved us the cost of a trial. There are others charged. Dorks rule.

Hogday said...

Like I said elsewhere, mentioning one Barry Prudham, `nothing new under the sun`.

Now we await phase 3 of the well tried and tested media formula, the critical analysis of all the remaining bits, so as to contruct a case of blame and finger-pointing.

I hope we don't see any `in-fighting` within the police fraternity either, like blaming one or the other departments in an ugly "who's best/worst" slapping match.

Anonymous said...

It's a bore now Hog and clear no one is really interested in the underlying problems. I was asked some time back to look into why CIT robbers were showing up with no previous profile and what the profile of typical druggie borrowers-from-shops actually looked like. To do the job with any rigour the cost was about the same as the £3 million being quoted for the hunt for Moat. We need a cheap way to collect and review the data. This exists but the professionals and politicians are scared stiff of trying.

Hogday said...

ACO: Nicely summed up. I think this thread is now bare.

As for your radical intel gathering sysytem, it wouldn't, by any chance, start in the pubs, clubs and snooker halls across this green and unpleasant land by any chance, would it? Maybe putting a few sets of `balls in vices` (euphamistically speaking, of course)
Surely we're not missing something basic about the nature of the beast? Surely the decision to all but wipe out the criminal intel system at a single stroke a few years back,in favour of precise science, was the answer? Of course we can always expect good people to come forward and give evidence, thus securing convictions - I expect they're all still thinking it over and weighing up the odds of a good life thereafter, they'll be along any moment to make statements.

Flex said...

A lot of training effort has been devoted to the subject of defense against knives and bladed weapons and what they can do in the real world to defend against it.
-Police role play