What you have found, during your career in policing is that decisions that are made 'on the ground' in seconds, in difficult, stressful, fast moving and unforgiving situations, are decisions that are judged, with hindsight, be they by senior officers, junior officers or for that matter, any one, you have found that decisions are scrutinised, pulled apart, alternatives offered from pages of procedure and legeslitive articles.
You cannot count on two hands the amount of times you have heard the following empty words from seniour police officers:
'What ever you choose to do, on the ground, we will support you.'
What you dislike about these words is that you disagree with them, because they are said with the knowledge that it really doesn't matter to anyone whether or not a Police Officer, Service Policeman or PCSO for that matter is supported by their Chain of Command, because really, what it actually comes down to is whether or not that Police Officer, Service Policeman, or PCSO can justify their actions in a court of law.
One thing that you have never had to do, and what you hope you never have to do, is confront an armed and determined suspect, who is ready to kill, both others and yourself. It is most likely the most stressful, unforgiving situation that a policeman can be involved in, and the thought of it makes you wince.
On the 22 July 2005 a SO12 Armed Surveilance Officer, code named Ivor, was deployed onto the streets of London as part of a team tasked to follow a suspect in the failed bombings on the 21 July 2005. The person that was believed, incorrectly to be the suspect, code named Nettle Tip, transited through London, by foot, on a bus and then made his way to Stockwell Tube Station. During this time, as CO19 Specialist Firearms Officers were struggling to make ground, Ivor volunteered on numerous ocasions to make the stop himself, as he had recieved information that led him to suspect that the suspect may be carrying an explosive device, and was ready to kill innocent members of the public.
On entering a tube carriage at Stockwell, Ivor sat behind the suspect, and waited for firearms officers, on seeing them, knowing that he was both dressed in smimilar clothes to the suspect and resembled him in appearence, he bravely took action.
Sir Micheal Wright: He wasn't wearing any inappropriate or unusual clothing, was he?
Ivor: He was dressed virtually identical to myself, yes, sir.
He moved to the door of the carriage, making a split second decision:
Ivor: However, when I saw the CO19 officers on the platform, I had to make an assessment within seconds as to why they were there.
He kept it open with his foot and gave a target indication, at this point the suspect got out of his seat and moved towards the officers.
Ivor: In my statement I said he advanced towards us.
Knowing full well that the suspect could have been carrying an exlosive device, Ivor then took hold of the suspect, wrapping his arms around his waist and pinned him back into his seat, both to prevent him from detonating a device and to assist in his arrest, the person believed to be Nettle Tip was actually an innocent man called Jean Charles DeMenezes, he was shot, at point blank range by two CO19 Specialist Firearms Officers, Charlie 2 and Charlie 12.
Ivor was then dragged out of the carriage and held at gunpoint by a CO19 officer and was understandably treated with grave suspicion until he identified himself as a Policeman.
The Honourable Mr Justice Henriques: We heard, commissioner, of some magnificent police work by several officers. The work of the officer codenamed ‘Ivor’ in grasping a suspected suicide bomber by both arms, pinning them to his side, was magnificent, and if had been dealing with a suicide bomber, he may well have saved many lives. As it was, he risked his own life, not only by way of proximity, but because he was dressed similar to Mr de Menezes, he was of similar complexion, and was indeed apparently for a short time understandably treated by the firearms team as an associate of the man they believed to be the bomber. It should be remembered also that he volunteered himself to make the stop before Mr de Menezes entered the tube station. May I, Commissioner, ask that he received the appropriate and well earned commendation?
This man, a constable, the lowest rank in the Police, put himself at risk, and bravely took action to prevent what he honestly believed may be a suicide bomber, hell bent on killing innocent people. Even though the man turned out to be innocent, Ivor still acted bravely and without consideration for his own safety, society needs policemen and women, like Ivor, who act without the direct support of their Chain of Command and are brave and rightious enough to make the decision 'on the ground' and then justify it in a court of law.
'Decisons made in real time are never perfect and it is easy to judge those decisions afterwards, from an arm chair.'
Ezra Kramer, The Bourne Ultimatum.