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Hero to Zero


PC David Rathband is suing his police force for the injuries caused to him by Raul Moat last year (Source)...i think its counterproductive behavior from a Police Officer that the service has been collectively proud and admiring of since he was shot. For me, he has demonstrated pride, compassion and tenacity that embodies what we stand for.

The events of that day were shocking to everyone, and they have led to every police force reviewing its response to that. Its right that they should do so because this risk of so called 'active shooters' is an emerging one.  The last time this happened was the so called Hungerford "Massacre" in 1987, where one Police Officer was killed in addition to many members of the public. Much learning was taken from that day, including changes to gun ownership law and to police procedures. It is not correct that the police forces are reviewing their response because they failed in some way in their risk assessment process, or particularly failed in their response on the day.

It would be inappropriate for every police force to be so risk averse that they spend millions of pounds expanding their health and safety department so that every risk can be assessed, no matter how unlikely it would be to happen. In the real world, the government say that we should be risk assessing any reasonably foreseeable risk. Its not only a matter of what is practical, but its also a matter of the proportionate spending of public money. Prior to that day, there had not been an incident of its type for almost 25 years (Hungerford)...its therefore not a reasonably foreseeable risk.

So PC Rathband is telling us that the police force in question should have either "remove[d] the threat or remove[d] the person that's being threatened." Well any police officer in the country will tell you that a police force will do everything it can to isolate and deal with a threat such as this. He also suggests that if you cant remove the threat, you should remove the person being threatened. I find it crazy to suggest that, at the time of a major incident, when the public are most at risk, that PC Rathband, or any police officer, should have been taken off the streets.

As Police Officers we run towards danger, so the public don't have to. I signed up to the job knowing i might be put in dangerous positions. Any suggestion that police officers should be removed from a dangerous situation purely because they are in danger is crazy, and if that were to happen we would be putting the public in danger.

There are always weaknesses though and the police service is a learning organisation. As a service, the police is very grown up about dealing with its mistakes. When mistakes are made, steps are taken to ensure that mistake doesn't happen again. Due to the nature of the work, we won't always get it right, and people will get hurt. In some rare occasions, like this one, someone is going to get hurt even when we get it right...i think it was correct to leave PC Rathband on the streets during this incident.

We have the benefit of hindsight now, and we could sit here and say "this/that/the other could have been done to prevent PC Rathband from being shot". This isn't the test we should be applying here. We need to be saying "did the police force do everything it could be reasonably expected to do under the circumstances?" Its essential that this question is asked objectively, and asked in isolation of any errors that PC Rathband/the public might feel have been made.

Good luck with that David.