Ian Blair should go

I worked with Iain Blair for five years when I was a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority. He was Deputy Commissioner to John Stevens when I arrived. It was clear throughout the years he was deputy – that he was more than focused on succeeding to the top job when Sir John retired. And that’s what happened.

It is awful really to have watched him make errors of judgement – virtually since day one. He clearly set out to do things differently and to be the best-ever top cop – and it has all gone so horribly wrong.

And his errors have been the big ones and the public ones. He also politicised the police unforgivably when it suited, and made some very inadvisable media decisions – such as participating in Question Time.

There is no hiding place for him now and I don’t truly understand why he is hanging on rather than going gracefully. I guess he feels that it’s not fair to be judged on the extraordinary but tragic incident shooting of one person rather than the rest of his record where crime has fallen overall in London.

But – firstly – with us all paying for extra police and those extra police and PCSOs now on duty – it would be rank failure if there weren’t crime figures he could point at. And – secondly – the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes happened under him. The findings are damning in terms of the number of mistakes that were made. An innocent man died.

Blair has to go – because he carries the responsibility for overall whether the Met is up to scratch or not. And those damning findings of a catalogue of mistakes tell us the answer – it wasn’t.

In the end – getting the organisation right, the procedures and processes in order, helps the policeman (or woman) on the front line when they face that split-second decision as to whether to pull the trigger or not – because with the right systems they can make their decision confident that it is the right one. If the system behind you isn’t up to scratch, you can’t.

That’s why Iain Blair has to go – so that in future our lives will be protected, including by a proper and effective deployment where necessary of armed police.

0 thoughts on “Ian Blair should go

  1. Lynne, as a former member of the MPA, I am surprised that you would support this campaign to remove Sir Ian Blair. As a member of the Conservative party, I proudly support the commissioner and will encourage him to follow through on his strategy to make London the safest major city in the world. It is a complete generalisation to state that he has somehow lost the confidence of the public or his own staff, unless there was strong evidence to suggest this was the case, it is better to provide evidence than the make sweeping generalisations!I am sure as he maintains his position as Commissioner; he will help to provide the highest quality of policing to Londoners and ensure we all remain safe. As Len Duvall affirmed,” The case was brought against the Metropolitan Police Service, not against the Commissioner personally or any other officer.” It is absurd to then blame the Commissioner for the mistakes at Stockwell. Those of us whom reside in London want more police patrolling and tackling all forms of criminality, whether it is anti-social behaviour or other yobbish behaviour. We want to ensure that we feel secure in our own homes and community and finally that we can feel confident to approach the police if we become victims of crime. The Met under Sir Ian contributed to making London safer and building a sense of trust in the London. We saw the introduction of the Safer Neighbourhoods, which has positively worked in communities across London by speaking with members of that particular local community. Under Sir Ian, we saw the introduction of PCSOs ensuring there is some kind of policing presence. We cannot ignore the fact that Safer Neighbourhoods, which comprises of a dedicated team of officers and police staff who will patrol every neighbourhood, has not help to make some difference to making our streets safer. All Londoners want to help defeat all forms of extremism and remove the threat of terrorism. I commend the Metropolitan Police Service for the several attacks they have successfully prevented and secured the conviction of a number of radical militants, including Abu Hamza and other preachers. However, the police will have to do more to encourage people from the very many diverse communities which make up the racial mosaic of London, to join the police and contribute to ensuring that we can gain the confidence of the all the communities they serve.It is appalling that certain members of the MPA would want to participate in a “no confidence vote” against the Commissioner in order to remove him. It would certainly be appalling if the Commissioner was removed. He has a great deal to offer the Met and London as a whole. We should recognise that.David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, has called on Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, to “restore public confidence” by sacking the commissioner. In a letter to Ms Smith, he said: “I regret to say that in view of the systemic failures that led to the death of Mr de Menezes, the public can have little confidence that Sir Ian Blair is the right person to ensure those vital lessons are learnt. I disagree strongly with David Davis. The Commissioner has made an enormous contribution to London and his many successful achievements as Commissioner must be taken into consideration. Furthermore, I am sure we all acknowledge the terrible events regarding the death of Brazilian plumber Mr de Menezes who was mistakenly killed at Stockwell Underground Station. Despite this appalling mistake, we cannot claim to have lost confidence in Sir Ian. I certainly recognise that due to the Commissioner being the head of the largest employer in London, he has to bear responsibility for this mistake. However, this has not changed my perception of him as Commissioner and wish him luck in following through his policing strategy. I agree with Ken Livingstone when he asserts so eloquently, “I wouldn’t put the irresponsible politicians attacking the police commissioner within a million miles of running the kind of anti-terror operations London has had to deal.” Furthermore, Sir Ian Blair has contributed more to London than any politician in this country will ever contribute. He has given an exceptional service of dedication, commitment and certainly professionalism. I though you are supportive of the Met’s efforts under Sir Ian Blair, particularly as a former member of the MPA. You out of all people should know the difficulties of operational policing, particularly during anti-terror operation of this scale. ThanksMash

  2. Reading and listening from afar (well away from London) to the reports about the de Menezes tragedy, it is now clear that it was not just an “appalling mistake” but that there is evidence of a serious organisational failure and ineffective management on the day. Despite all the good things described by Mash, the response of the Met to this very serious mistake has itself been appalling, and thus a fundamental remedy is required. So new management is needed for at least the area where the tragedy was originated – and the longer that is delayed, the more pressure there is on the man at the top.

  3. dreamspire:I agree with much of your observation regarding the organisational failure of the Metropolitan Police Service. The Metropolitan Police, in this particular instance, were found guilty on grounds of health and safety. They quite rightly put the public at risk and an innocent man was killed. However, I believe there is no grounds for resignation and I continue believe Sir Ian Blair is an incredibly competent and professional senior police officer. At the end of the day, we must recognise that mistakes are always going to happen in wars or situations like this. The best the Metropolitan Police can do is, in my humble opinion, try and learn important lessons in order to reduce the risk of mistakes occuring again. Additionally, this was not Sir Ian Blair or any single officer on trial, this was the Metropolitan Police Service, as the largest employer in London on trial. A trial in which the Met were found guilty on grounds of health and safety. What about when a mistake is committed in the British Armed Forces, why do we not remove the Chief Army General of the British Army? or when there is an enormous NHS blunder by doctors or nurses, why do we not sack the Chief Executive of that hospital or the NHS? We have more blunders in Iraq, then Sir Ian Blair has made in this whole career in the British police. If we need to sack someone, we should look at our Army Chief of Staff for the mistakes of his soldiers on the ground. Personally, I offer my full backing for Sir Ian Blair and his Commissioner’s Chief of Officer Team who are doing a first class job in delivering neighbourhood policing to every part of London, raising the visibility of the Met and driving down the fear of crime. I see this in my community and am seeing the increase number of officers in other London boroughs. No politicians who have called for the sacking of the commissioner will ever understand what it feels like to face the split-second decisions in life-and-death policing operations that the police do. Why has no party praised Sir Ian Blair for successfully foiling other terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom? Is that not good enough for mention. Does this not make good headlines. Our politicians should consider soberly and seriously the impact that their statements have on such people. I myself have spent time with officers in Haringey and have observed the work they do, I can tell you that officers are often put into situation where no politician will ever understand what it feels like. Thanks mateMash 🙂

  4. Sir Ian should go. His interference with the statutory role of the IPCC was, if it ocurred as reported, a criminal act “Misconduct in Public Office”:From the Stockwell 1 report, it seems clear that Sir I Blair:1. Immediately after the shooting on 22/7 knew full well that there was an IPCC role2. Very hastily (within 42 minutes of the shooting) decided to block the IPCC3. Did delay the IPCC by 3 days until 25/74. Did put at risk and perhaps did actually damage the prospects of the IPCC investigation through that delay; eg altered log, delay in interviewing the ‘shooters’, the treatment of non-police witnesses.QuestionsA. Did the IPCC consider or investigate Sir I Blair’s actions against the criminal offence of ‘misconduct in a public office’? If yes, didthey report that to the CPS for consideration? If not, why not?B. Did the DPP/CPS consider that possible offence? If yes, what was the conclusion (and why has that not been announced)? If not, why not?C. If yes, did the CPS ask the IPCC to carry out any furtherinvestigation on the possible offence?D. Was Sir I Blair interviewed (under caution) about his conduct and against the elements of the misconduct offence? If not, why not? Surely there are enough grounds for doing so!Once we have Britain’s Senior Police Officer engaged in what looks like serious criminality and being protected by the Government of the day-we are in serious trouble.

  5. David Raynes: Your questions answered below. “Sir Ian should go. His interference with the statutory role of the IPCC was, if it ocurred as reported, a criminal act “Misconduct in Public Office”:According to the Metropolitan Police public statement,’The Metropolitan Police fully accepts, as the report notes, that [they] made mistakes in both internal and external communications. [Sir Ian] has therefore offered an apology for these mistakes occurring.That said, Sir Ian affirmed he wanted to to say again he was “very sorry that some information released to the public was wrong and increased the grief of the de Menezes family.” Additionally, in a public statement released by Sir Ian, he hoped that, “the shortcomings which occurred will be seen in the light both of the extraordinary challenge [officers] faced and the significant steps the [Met] have since taken to improve. A.”Did the IPCC consider or investigate Sir I Blair’s actions against the criminal offence of ‘misconduct in a public office’? If yes, didthey report that to the CPS for consideration? If not, why not?”In relation to statements made on 22 July, according to a statement released by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, ‘the complaint against the Commissioner is not substantiated and there is no evidence of misconduct. However the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) was informed to consider why the Commissioner remained uninformed of key information emerging during 22 July 2005.’ B. Did the DPP/CPS consider that possible offence? If yes, what was the conclusion (and why has that not been announced)? If not, why not?There was no substantiated evidence to prosecute the Commissioner, as declared by the IPPC report. Nor is there any evidence of misconduct in public office. The Metropolitan Police Authority voted in favour to retain Sir Ian Blair. D. Was Sir I Blair interviewed (under caution) about his conduct and against the elements of the misconduct offence? If not, why not? Surely there are enough grounds for doing so!There are clearly no grounds to interview him under caution. Remember, it was not Sir Ian Blair that was put on trial, it was the Metropolitan Police, as the largest employer in London on trial. No officers were prosecuted, however, the Met was found guilty on health and safety grounds. Once we have Britain’s Senior Police Officer engaged in what looks like serious criminality and being protected by the Government of the day-we are in serious trouble.First of all, the Metropolitan Police Authority is not the Government. In spite of the guilty verdict, an independent board of “constructive critics” found in favour of Sir Ian Blair. The public fully support the efforts of Sir Ian Blair and we should welcome his contribution to Safer Neighbourhoods initiative. An initiative he help to roll out across London. You say “serious criminality”, can you adduce evidence as to what serious criminality Sir Ian was supposed to have been involved? Why do we not put the British Armed Forces Chief of Staff on trial for war crimes in Iraq and other places where British forces recklessly kill innocent people? The investigation conducted by the Independent Police Complaints Commission identified serious weaknesses in the Metropolitan Police in relation to the handling of critical information including within the senior management team. The MPA should consider what management action is required to resolve this. In view of the serious nature of the failings, the Home Office and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) should also consider what action they need to take to address the issues raised. There are other important lessons that could be learnt from this tragic incident. The Met is far from perfect but every day its brave men and women go out unarmed and face the prospect of injury or death on behalf of Londoners. We should be proud of each and every Metropolitan Police officer who provide such an important and critical reassuring service to Londoners. In summary, the Met has learned from what happened: but not only from the events of 22 July. The Met has to deal with the fastest evolving terrorist threat ever seen in Britain. They, as the largest employer in London, are continuously learning.