Rioting and the Police

Who started the riots this week? God knows. I don’t live near London, Bristol or Manchester, so it’s all very confusing.

However, there are some facts which seem pretty fixed already. The timeline was:

1. Police pursue (not at speed, only monitoring) a young man whom they suspected of some crimes, specifically firearms crimes;

2. the car in which the man was driving was stopped, there were shots fired, and the man was killed;

3. it was noticed that a second police officer was hit by a bullet. It lodged in his radio

4. a non-police issue firearm was found at the scene.

Now, I have no legal knowledge, and the only police procedural information I have is that which I have picked up over the years as a shooter and crime writer. I have had to research modern police practice for several stories. I cannot comment on the videos I have seen of the rioting, other than to comment that it seems farcically stupid for police officers to stand around watching while small groups of men wreck vehicles and do huge amounts of damage. Still, that is probably to stop the poor darlings from getting hurt.

But what I can comment on is firearms.

The bullet found in the officer’s radio was, according to reports, a hollow-nosed slug. These were originally called “dum-dum” after the Indian town where they were manufactured, and are specifically banned by the Geneva Conventions, being uniquely lethal. Ironically, it is OK for British and other police forces to use these more lethal bullets on citizens, even if our soldiers cannot in defence of the realm.

Still, it is possible that the bullet came from a criminal’s gun. Expanding ammunition is perfectly legal, for example, to more humanely kill deer, foxes and rabbits.

The gun that he allegedly carried was apparently a starting pistol that had been modified to fire bullets.

Now, a gun that has been modified in that way is not going to be either accurate or safe (to the shooter). The metal used in the manufacture of such weapons is inferior, generally. If he did try to reach for his gun, and did try to shoot at the police, he would have to have been astonishingly foolish.

Is it possible that a criminal could have raised such a gun and shot the policeman?

Obviously yes. It is not impossible. If he had two or three officers standing pointing their weapons at him, it would be insane to fire at them, but some criminals can react in such a manner.

However, if he were to have used a starting pistol modified to fire cartridges, he would almost certainly have had a .22 or similar small calibre gun. The guns used by the police are 9mm – whether H&K MP5 submachineguns or Glock pistols. It will be very easy to see whether the bullet hitting the policeman was his or not.

If it was not from his gun, the conclusion would appear to be that the policeman was shot by a colleague. Either the bullet that hit him had already passed through the young man’s body, or it missed and hit the cop instead.

How could such well trained officers be so inaccurate?


Over the last forty years there has been a policy of deliberately using very aggressive officers in the armed squads, as was shockingly described in “The Good Guys Wear Black” by Steve Collins, a man who had been a sergeant in the Met.

At the same time, there was such a strong attitude against firearms outside the armed units: those who enjoyed shooting were warned (verbally) that they were viewed as “gun nuts” and would not be promoted. A friend of mine who earned his marksmanship badge some years ago decided to join my club in order to improve his skills – after all a police marksman only has to score fifty percent. At that time my club demanded that shooter demonstrated they could score seventy five percent before they were allowed to touch a multi-shot gun. Before that only single-shots were allowed.

My friend was selected to shoot for Surrey County and became a national-standard shot. As he improved and continued shooting, he was taken off normal duties, and reallocated to traffic. But he refused to stop shooting. Apart from anything else, it was a good, sociable club.

Some good, dedicated policemen still tried to improve their skills in the teeth of such persecution. They used to go every weekend to fire their own guns. Why? Well, they knew that they needed to be competent with their guns if they were to be safe with them.

By safe I mean two things: first, that they could quickly draw their guns and present them in case they needed to protect themselves or members of the public; second, in the event that they had to fire, they wanted to know that they could hit their chosen target.

Many folks won’t believe the first, perhaps. There is so much nonsense spoken about police with guns, especially in the UK. Most of the dafter comments come from simple ignorance, of course.

Still, a friend of mine, who used to be the sheriff in a large town near Los Angeles, had to draw his gun twice in his entire career, and never had to use it. He practised hard every week to make sure that he was safe with that gun, though.

In Britain, when I used to shoot competitively, I used to fire between five and six hundred rounds a week. So did my friends who shot with the police. And they were there because at the time they were entitled to twenty five rounds a fortnight for their own practise. They knew perfectly well that if they were allowed only fifty shots a month, they would not be safe with their guns. You cannot control pistols accurately with so little experience. Nor the superb MP5s. To shoot, you need to practise.

And ironically, if a policeman is wearing his uniform, he is safe with guns. But as soon as he takes it off, he is a citizen and banned from even touching a pistol. It is illegal for my friends in the force to go and invest their own money to learn how to use guns safely and accurately for our defence and protection.

Now, I do not know whether the cops involved were firing pistols or submachineguns. I do not know whether they hit their target because he was waving a pistol at them. I doubt he would have, but it’s possible. And I don’t know whether the bullet that hit the cop was fired by his colleague, by the target, or whether it passed through the target and went on to hit the policeman.

In fact, sitting down here in Devon, I know almost nothing whatsoever about this little tragedy. I only hope that the Independent Police Complaints Commission will deal with the matter quickly and with honesty. We don’t need another botched investigation.

What am pretty sure of is, the result of that shooting has been a crime wave. It isn’t people who feel that they have a cause. It is a series of thefts and arson attacks. The work of mindless criminals.

The prison population is set to soar.

4 Responses to “Rioting and the Police”
  1. jinbei says:

    I’m right here in London and watching what’s going on (and writing about it, check it out), and it’s driving me crazy. One thing has just come out though – the bullet in the radio appears to have come from a cop gun, and the non-cop gun found at the scene appears to not have been fired. Not looking forward to the fallout on this.


    • I think the fallout’s going to be bad. But the worst aspect is, the police are unregulated when it comes to shooting citizens. I don’t care who it is the police try to catch, they must or should work within the rules set out. They didn’t in the case of Menezes – that was an execution. This one sounds like it could (only could) be similar. If he drew his gun and waved it, the shot was valid. But, if he didn’t, those cops were guilty of an illegal homicide.
      After Menezes’ killing, it was said that the police responsible would be investigated – upshot was, all the SO19 officers threatened to quit and the chief of police backed down. It was shameful. There are too many dead now, and not one policeman has paid for killing a man carrying a table leg, a naked man lying in his bed, a car thief who was unarmed, etc etc etc.
      This one is just the latest. Not an excuse for the rioters. They’re opportunistic thieves. But our police are not helping anyone.


  2. Wow! That is an out of the ordinary slant.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: