The murder of two Manchester police officers in a gun and grenade — especially grenade — attack, sounds like something from an over-the-top film and is particularly hard on Greater Manchester Police who have been so successful in reducing gun crime since its 1990s peak. It is because these incidents are so rare and untypical that they shock; for the same reason they don’t really offer any lessons for the future. That makes the deaths all the more cruel — there will be no good we can point to — and must make things all the harder for the victims’ families and the police themselves.
What has most impressed me is the police’s ability to respond to this awful event with such great professionalism and intelligence: Meeting calls to arm police officers with well reasoned responses and explanations of the philosophy of contemporary British policing, while quietly batting away questions on the death penalty.
That communities must be policed by consent and that the police must be a respected and trusted part of the community is not only an important democratic principle, it must also be the most effective way to fight crime. These murders do not appear to be the work of an eccentric loner, but of leaders of an organised crime gang deeply embedded in a marginalised community with the power to bring that gang down, if it chose to work with the police. But just as the murderer and attempted police killer Raoul Moat, inspires some so this killing spree has its admirers. That calls on the police to be incredibly restrained and professional in the face of inevitable provocation.
Avoiding the Duff response
Yet elsewhere on the internet, and as bizarre as a Raoul Moat tribute, the internet troll David Duff suggests the murdered police are partly to blame as they were Plod-like (he has since clarified in a comment, that this is an extrapolation of his prejudice that all police are Plod-like). David Duff has form as a troll who insists victims should share blame, but it is probably fair to say that his ‘hang him!’ blog is a common knee-jerk response of precisely the kind the police would like to dampen down with reason. The casual insult of the victims betrays him as someone whose need to enjoy vengeance far outweighs his ability to spare a thought for those directly affected.
If we really are to support the police in their efforts to defeat organised crime we too, like the police, will need to avoid a David Duff response. The community that sheltered this gang could have prevented this tragedy, so it is all the more vital that the police win that community’s consent.