You would have to have a heart of stone not to feel sorry for the family of Jean Charles de Menezes. I remember hearing the news that a suicide bomber had been shot by police, and saying good job. Only afterwards did it emerge that an innocent man had been killed. There's been so much disinformation in the press and from the police that you don't really want to comment, and things are really not much clearer now.
I think the coroner was right to not offer an unlawful killing verdict. The firearm's officers are clearly blameless, given the information they were fed. They are in a sticky position now the jury didn't believe their version of giving a police warning, when compared to 17 other witnesses who didn't hear one. Will they join the list of officers who have "lost the confidence" of the Commissioner?
In other areas things are clearer to me and I can understand where things went wrong. I've been a surveillance trained officer and been in teams who have followed the wrong person, and that's when they've come from a target address. Any identification trying to pick a target emerging from a communal front door is going to be dubious. In this case not having a decent image to start with flags up immediate problems. The initial observation officer missed the off as he was relieving himself. Cardinal Sin in the surveillance world and very slack work.
It would appear they were then playing catch up, trying to get an identification. The surveillance team were responsible for the follow and would have had a controller directing units. This is a very hard job, I've done it and envisage some poor bloke in a car, map on lap trying to sort the follow out on one radio, keeping the command team updated on another with at least one mobile on the go too. A loggist sat in the back will be trying to write all the movements down amongst this chaos. Imagine looking at your map in a job like this and seeing your target getting closer to an underground station.
Meanwhile in the central command post miles away decisions need to be made. Has the man been identified or not? What would you do? They needed answers to questions but also had an eye to that map. I'm certain a Kratos wasn't authorised. If it was, the armed surveillance team would have dealt with the target as soon as that order was given. The order was given to stop the man, but the armed arrest team were unable to reach him before he entered Stockwell tube. These couple of minutes cost Jean Charles his life. I would have hoped that somebody on the ground would have made the decision to stop him before he entered the tube. Surveillance teams don't show out operationally but if there was ever a time this was it. That decision would have saved his life. That's a big call taking it away from the command team.
So is it fair to find somebody to blame? The police operation failed badly and the inquest has highlighted the areas in respect of images etc. I'm not sure promoting senior officers involved in the case sends the right message either, but look at the choices
Make wrong decision - Target dies who turns out to be innocent.
Make wrong decision - Target detonates bomb killing dozens.
Make right decision - Wow that was a close one.
This was the same choice facing the Royal Marines yesterday in Afghanistan when approached by a child with a wheelbarrow. He was either a proxy bomb or a suicide bomber. You don't want to be in a position to make that choice do you? So let's not judge those too harshly who got it wrong. Each officer has to live with the decisions they made, a choice made with the right intention.
Jean Charles was as much a victim of Islamic Terrorism as the four marines yesterday.