Saturday, 6 July 2013

Let's cut the policeman who shot criminal suspect Azelle Rodney some slack

It would be interesting to know what proportion of the audience for yesterday’s radio and television news reports about the circumstances surrounding the shooting by a policeman of criminal suspect Azelle Rodney found it rather hard to summon feelings of either outrage or compassion on behalf of the dead man and his family. Around three-quarters, I suspect – the remaining quarter would probably consist of 5% loonies and 20% liberals (although there’s probably quite a large overlap in those two groups).

At the time of the 2005 shooting in Edgware (an execution, according the his mother), Rodney was a passenger in a car with members of a drugs gang who were apparently on their way to steal drugs from a rival Colombian gang.

I’m not in favour of trigger-happy policemen gunning down innocent people without just cause – but if you choose to travel in a car with armed criminals on their way to commit a crime, then it strikes me that anything untoward that happens to you is rather your own damned fault.

The BBC and Channel 4 reports, which heavilyy featured the dead man's righteously angry mother, Susan Alexander – she rather skated over the issue of her son’s chosen lifestyle or her own role in his evidently imperfect upbringing – seemed blatant attempts to create a sort of Doreen Lawrence substitute. The only problem with this approach is that Stephen Lawrence had done absolutely nothing whatsoever to invite his death at the hands of a gang of vile white thugs, and Doreen Lawrence evidently deserved our sympathy as surely as she and her family deserved justice: I’m not convinced we’re going to see Susan Alexander carrying the flag alongside Shami Chakrabarti at a major international sporting ceremony anytime soon.

After High Court judge Sir Christopher Holland yesterday released his findings that there was “no lawful justification” for Rodney’s killing, Ms (Mrs?) Alexander stated that Azelle’s death was “wholly avoidable”. I couldn’t agree more with her – he might very well still be alive if he hadn’t chosen to ride around in a car with gun-toting gangsters. She also demanded an apology from the Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. Given that he currently has to spend so much of his time in meetings with Doreen Lawrence, and given that those of us who aren’t involved in criminal activities would rather prefer him to be concentrating on keeping us safe, I’m hoping Sir Bernard will politely decline her request. After all, I doubt whether he's a professional grief counsellor.

As for the unfortunate officer who shot Rodwell – only identified as E7 – I see no reason to reject his testimony that he believed Rodwell was reaching for a gun, possibly an automatic weapon, and that his life might therefore be in danger. Whether he was justified in that belief or not is a moot point. In his intriguing Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, journalist Malcolm Gladwell wondered if a state of temporary autism might afflict some people in a state of high tension – in other words, a rush of adrenalin temporarily affects the brain's ability to accurately interpret signals: this may be why officers quite often mistake, for example, the chair legs or toy guns being wielded by the mentally disturbed for dangerous weapons. It sounds suspiciously as this is what happened in the Azelle Rodney shooting. Obviously, this is no defence – part of being an effective armed copper or a soldier must be the ability not to give way to that sort of mental malfunction. But as most of us have never been in a situation where we have to decide within a fraction of a second whether or not our life is being threatened, I hope the ridiculous threat to charge E7 with murder is lifted swiftly – let’s cut the people who are watching our backs some slack.

Anyway, I'm sure Sir Christopher Holland is feeling very pleased with himself this weekend for having sided with a victim as evidently deserving as Azelle Rodney.

1 comment:

  1. I had never heard of Gladwell's temporary autism theory. I don't think I've ever acted completely instinctively on anything and yet on the only occasion I witnessed a killing - a messy al fresco hit in a restaurant in Bratislava - I ran towards the gunman. It's been puzzling me ever since.