Red Mist

As more facts have come out, I’ve been critical of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menzies, who was shot and killed by special operatives of the London police in the mistaken belief that he was a suicide bomber.

In the London Times yesterday was an article even more critical of the culture of the London “Gun Police” quoting two SAS trainers who had trained the officers. I’d be a bit wary of this because there’s certainly room for some blameshifting, but if half of what is claimed is true, the London cop shop needs some major work.

The two soldiers describe a number of alarming incidents during police training at the regiment’s base in Hereford. The trainers have no authority to fail police officers they believe are unsuited to the job.

One of the soldiers said: “When the tension starts to rise and the adrenaline is flowing, the ‘red mist’ seems to descend on armed police officers who become very trigger-happy. This has been shown time and again in training exercises.”

The second soldier said: “We thought that police firearms officers were far more concerned with their personal image, dressing in body armour and looking ‘gung ho’, rather than their professional capabilities. I’m not surprised at the number of mistakes over the years.“

The statement also describes a police training exercise run by the SAS in which an armed terrorist group was threatening to kill a hostage. The police team were to rescue the hostage using minimum force.

“I was playing the leader of the armed group and instructed the other members of my group to surrender peacefully once the final assault was initiated. Therefore there was no need for the police to open fire.

“But as the police assault group entered the room they began firing at everything. No one had moved; we were all stood with our hands on our heads.

“The response would have resulted in the unnecessary deaths of all the make- believe terrorists and the hostage alike. So much for the rule of minimum force.”

This sounds like a serious case of undertraining, lack of accountability in training, and poor management on the part of whoever is supposed to vet and deploy these guys.

The first time I went into a shooting simulator at Gunsite, I did in fact shoot everything in sight.

But that’s a mistake I’ve never made in a live-fire or force-on-force simulation again, and I’m just a random civilian. If they can’t train the London cops better than I’m trained, they shouldn’t be allowed to carry guns. Period. This is a significant management failure, and needs to be addressed today; my guess is that more – rather than less – London officers will be carrying guns in the next year or so.

13 thoughts on “Red Mist”

  1. Armed,

    I’m with you here–but do you really think Ken Livingstone and the various police commissioners are up to the task?

  2. I had similiar experience with DEA agents in Panama. They liked to look the part, but never learned the lessons. The problem is that the officers who are clowns make the rest of their professional brothers look bad. But then again, dressing the part is half the battle for some politicians. As long as you look like you are doing something.

  3. I am familiar with police training due to litigation experience in California, and then as a trial court research attorney evaluating civil cases against officers for excessive force.

    It sounds as though British police have a lot to learn, in particular how to screen volunteers for firearms work. Training alone can’t do it – they must screen out those with personal issues. Given that British police do not carry firearms on the job, volunteers for such work will tend to be those who are most aggressive, when what is needed is those who are steadiest.

  4. I agree that the lack of private gun ownership and familiarity with firearms hurts the UK’s Spec Ops folks. However the comment by the SAS person is laughable.

    Every bit of training I’ve seen or heard described has as it’s goal the immediate neutralization of the hostage takers to save innocent lives. THAT is the goal, not “minimum force” which is simply PC nonsense. That means not indiscriminate shooting but zero hesitation to shoot the hostage takers. Which is very sensible given today’s climate. Negotiations are pretty much useless, swift action to simply kill the hostage takers saves lives and fooling around costs innocent lives.

  5. The whole approach to guns in the UK is out of kilter.There are no lagally held hanguns in public hands,yet gun crime has risen and more police are carrying guns.
    Terrorism so far has involved bombing,no armed confrontations with the police have taken place,most crime shootings have been drive by,gangland or family breakdown,yet the police feel it neccessary to carry submachineguns.
    Because there is no intermediate stage between the involvement of ordinary beat officers and the arrival of and armed response group,the chances are that when the latter are called in there will be a fatality.A mere anonymous tip off that a person is armed is likely to get that person killed.This happened with the unfortunate man with a table leg in a plastic bag

  6. #3,

    Prohibition Police have always been like that.

    Most prohibition raids are done by SWAT teams using no knock dynamic entry techniques. You get a better adreniline rush that way as opposed to knocking on the door and presenting a search warrant.

    Of course people having a self induced drug rush have impaired judgement.


    The worst part of all that is that we are pesecuting people who are mostly self medicating for PTSD derrived from child abuse, the traumas of war, and other sources.

    Nothing like persecuting those hurting to people feel better.

    I wonder if there is a society that can exist without the persecution of innocents.


    We have real enemies to persecute these days. Can we give up persecting self medicators?

  7. Dr. Tom O’Connell has written up some research he has done on adolescent self medication. I reviewed it.

    Among other things, he says that when pot is not available for the purpose teens switch to tobacco and alcohol.

    Ever wonder why alcohol companies want a drug free America?

    He also says that pot is the prefered medicine for ADD and ADHD among many teens.

    Ever wonder why the big pharmaceutical companies want a drug free America?

  8. Peter,

    Prohibition always produces gangland style murders and drive bys.

    It is one of the reasons police support prohibition.

    Job security.

    A few years back in Calif. The Prison Guard Union supported harsher penalties for drug law violations. They know which side their bread is buttered on.

    The #1 thing the police serve and protect is their jobs.

  9. Holy Cow M. Simon! How much have you been self medicating?! California prison guards dont need to support tougher sentencing guidelines. The prisons are overflowing and populations have steadily increased (along with the rest of humanity) since before I was born. Crime is a growth industry, with or without legalized drugs. You’re bias against police has no part in intelligent debate. Police are people with different personalities, skills, talents and failures just like anyone else. We (yes I said we) are not a bunch of fanatical robots with a secret agenda of world domination.

    As for England’s training, some of the other commenters were right on with recognizing the problem of only special forces being firearms trained and ready. The training for special weapons teams increases the emphasis on deadly force and changes the rules of engagement somewhat. Officers who are trained with and regularly carry firearms during routine law enforcement encounters are certain to act with more practiced discretion and finesse, though this might increase their personal risk when they encounter a suspect bent on killing. Training, training, practice and more training, along with careful selection of officers and the ability to eliminate potential problems from the pool of applicants are the proven methods for police and SWAT recruitment. In California, to become a cop, you have to pass a written, physical agility, medical physical, psychological, background, several layers of interviews, academy and field training before you even get to be a rookie. And still, we sometimes have problem officers. It then takes several years of field experience (carrying firearms) before you can apply for special weapons teams. Anything less is bound to increase the risk to the public.

  10. TK,

    It’s not just that the general pool of British police officers lacks experience with firearms. The whole police training and promotion establishment lacks firearms experience. They don’t know how to spot people who should not be trusted with firearms.

    This is a “garbage in, garbage out” issue.

  11. It’s a good thing you’re following this issue, AL. I hear this kind of thing happens several times a day in trigger happy London. Illegal Brasilians are getting blown away right and left by killhappy bobbies with sidearms. this has got to stop, Bobbies! Thousands of illegal Brasilians murdered by the constabulary every month, millions in a year. My Gott, this is an outrage.

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