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.