They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Sunday, September 18, 2005

SAS trainers say Police are 'gung ho' and 'trigger happy'

thetimes: SAS trainers denounce 'gung ho' armed police

Two senior SAS soldiers who trained many of the firearms teams now serving in Britain's police forces have warned of their concerns about the officers' skills and psychological suitability for the job.

The two SAS officers, who have left active service, claim the police they trained had not been subjected to adequate psychological and physical tests to establish whether or not they were suitable to use firearms. The police officers were often "gung ho" and unfit.

The soldiers believe members of the Metropolitan police team that shot dead Jean Charles de Menezes, the innocent Brazilian, on the London Underground in July would have been among those they trained, although they are not certain.

The two men have detailed their concerns in a written statement to The Sunday Times. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is expected to study their claims as part of its investigation into how de Menezes, wrongly suspected of being a would-be suicide bomber, came to be shot by a team from the Met's CO19 firearms unit.

Leaked documents from the IPCC showed that de Menezes was not behaving suspiciously, as had been claimed, but was restrained by an officer before 11 bullets were fired at him at close range. Three missed.

A spokesman for the IPCC said: "If there are concerns being expressed about the wider issues of selection and training, I'm sure our investigation team would look at the evidence and make recommendations."

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.

"There is no assessment of physical fitness, no psychological profiling, nothing. It's a major problem."

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."

The SAS officers claim they often found police firearms units to be small "cliques" with professional standards below those found in the military. "In the bar after exercises, the police would still be carrying their pistols and have MP5s (machine guns) slung over their shoulder so they could pose for photos. The first question they always asked was whether we had killed anyone." Link