U.K. Cops: Minor Changes to Deadly Force Policy
LONDON – London police said Saturday they made only minor changes to their directive on the use of deadly force after killing an innocent man mistaken for a terrorist, and they also denied a published report that they offered $1 million to the victim's family.
"There has been a review. The police have reviewed the strategy and we have made one or two small changes, but the operation remains essentially the same," said a police spokeswoman, who declined to give her name because of police policy.
She also would not discuss details of the changes in Operation Kratos (search), the force's name for what British media call a "shoot-to-kill" policy.
The review followed the July 22 killing of a Brazilian man, Jean Charles de Menezes (search), 27, who was wrongly suspected of being a suicide terrorist.
The Daily Mail reported Saturday that a senior police officer offered compensation to Menezes' family during a visit to Brazil two weeks ago. The report, citing Menezes' family, said the amount was $1 million.
Police denied doing that.
"The only discussions we have had so far with the family of Jean Charles de Menezes have been about initial expenses and we strongly refute any suggestion that a figure anywhere in the region of $1 million has been offered as compensation," the force said in a statement Saturday.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke (search), the government minister responsible for policing in Britain, said Saturday that he has full confidence in London's police chief.
"I am very happy with the conduct, not only of Sir Ian Blair, but the whole Metropolitan Police in relation to the inquiry," Clarke told British Broadcasting Corp.
Blair, who apologized for the mistaken killing, has denied pursuing any cover-up or trying to block the Independent Police Complaints Commission's investigation of the shooting.
Blair said he did not resist the investigation but rather sought advice from the Home Office on how secret intelligence would be dealt with, given that the police complaints commission had a duty to disclose all its findings to the victim's family.
"What I actually said was we have a unique situation here. At that stage I, and my officers, thought the dead man was a suicide bomber," Blair said in an interview with BBC radio. "We are in the middle of the biggest counterterrorism operation — is it wise to bring another set of investigators into the middle of that?"
Blair told the BBC on Friday that police took responsibility for Menezes' death, but he said that, while tragic, it was just one death out of 57 — including the four suicide bombers and 52 commuters killed in the July 7 attacks on three subway trains and a double-decker bus.
"The context here is the largest criminal inquiry in English history with 52 innocent victims dead. ... We can't let that one tragic death outweigh all others," Blair said.
Leaked documents from the complaints commission appear to contradict original statements by police that the Brazilian was behaving suspiciously before being shot.
On July 22, Blair said Menezes failed to obey instructions from surveillance officers who were following him as a suspected suicide bomber. In the heightened anxiety after the July 7 bloodshed and a failed bombing attack July 21, witnesses reported Menezes was wearing a heavy padded coat and jumped over ticket barriers at Stockwell subway station before bolting toward a train, where he was grabbed by police and shot.
The Metropolitan Police never contradicted those claims.
However, the documents leaked to ITV News suggest that Menezes, an electrician, walked casually into the subway station and was wearing a light denim jacket.
Brazil's government said it was "outraged" by the reports and said it would send two officials to Britain to meet with police and the commission investigating the killing.
A newspaper, meanwhile, said the official terrorism threat level had been lowered for the first time since the July 7 bombings.
The Sunday Telegraph said intelligence officials reduced the threat level from the highest rating of "critical" to "severe general" because there was no specific intelligence of an imminent attack.