It may be wilderness myth, but when we were in Canada a few years ago someone told us that you should run away if you see a grizzly bear, but stand your ground if it’s a black bear.
Or maybe it’s the other way round.
Either way, what are you going to do if you’re not an ursine expert….ask the rather large animal which type it might be, before you make your decision? Even more tricky if you happen to be colour blind.
I was sadly reminded of this impossible quandary in the last couple of days, when a firearms officer was arrested for shooting dead Jermaine Baker, who was allegedly on the point of attempting to free two convicted criminals from a prison van in Wood Green, north London.
All sorts of conflicting rumours are now swirling around.
Jermaine was a gang member. No he wasn’t. He was armed. Maybe, but it was a fake gun. He was asleep in a car when he was shot.
I fear the officer has been arrested in an attempt to alleviate community tension in the Tottenham area, close to where Mark Duggan was shot by armed police in August 2011. That death caused widespread unrest and rioting across London and other parts of the country. An inquest in January 2014 found that Mr. Duggan had been lawfully killed.
We hope of course that our justice system will ultimately get to the bottom of this latest – and highly inflammatory – death.
But if I were a betting man, I’d guess that the odds of Jermaine somehow being involved in the failed escape plot – either with a fake or real gun of his own – are higher than those that he was an innocent, sleeping victim who had nothing to do with the alleged escape attempt.
In which case, what message are we sending to the police and security forces who risk their lives for us every day to try and prevent armed criminals from perpetrating violent crimes, and terrorists from murdering innocent people?
David Cameron has today ordered a review of the use of guns by police in this country.
According to the BBC report:
There have been warnings that fears of lengthy investigations, public inquiries and even prosecutions following a shooting could deter police officers from taking up firearms roles.
Former Met Police commissioner Lord Blair told Sky News the “investigative and judicial processes” needed to change, rather than the law.
“When somebody is shot dead, of course the police have to account for what has happened, but some of these cases take five, seven, 10 years to resolve. That’s completely absurd.”
He added: “These are men and women who go to work to do an incredibly dangerous job for which they volunteer and if they do their duty and shoot somebody because they have to… they should not be treated as criminals.”
So what was the firearms officer supposed to do….politely ask Jermaine if that gun he had with him was real or fake? Loaded or empty?
Madness. Utter madness. We’re putting these people in an impossible position, and unless we take steps to defend them, fewer and fewer will be willing to carry guns on the streets, on the hopefully infrequent occasions that we need protection.
And then we’ll feel as vulnerable as a hiker in the Canadian wilderness, with a bear – whether grizzly or black – running towards us.