On the Today programme this morning, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner was defending the police handling of yesterday’s student protests.
When asked about the (idiotic) attack by protesters on the car carrying the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, he praised the “restraint” of the firearms officers who were there.
The implication appeared to be that, but for this “restraint”, the protesters would have quite properly been shot dead. The Commissioner furthermore described the restraint of his officers generally, not by reference to the officers following training, policies and procedures, but in terms which meant he could commend the officers’ moral qualities.
The impression one formed listening to the Commissioner was that it is only a matter of simple discretion for his officers not to be more heavy-handed or even lethal in dealing with protesters.
Any lapse would be understandable, and it would be merely a moral failing of the officer.
One test of a liberal society is the point at which killing protesters becomes acceptable, at least to those with the power to do the killing.
And this morning it seemed clear that, unless the Commissioner misspoke or that one simply misinterpreted him, that the point is now the discretion of any police officer with a gun.
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