Unionism and defence of PSNI actions

DUP Assembly member Jim Wells has came to the defence of the PSNI officer involved in the fatal shooting incident in Ballynahinch.

Involvement in the shooting is no doubt traumatic for all involved and recognising that trauma for the PSNI officer (scroll down) is reasonable but is pushing a version of events wise? There is an independent investigation underway and it should be allowed to run its course.

Wells seems to be displaying an Old Unionist attitude of a knee-jerk defence of the police. In a post-patten context why do some Unionists persist with such attitudes? The PSNI does not want any sort of “special” relationship with the Unionist community so why should Unionist representatives rush to give the PSNI political cover?

  • Mickaline

    Seems as though Mr. Wells had no choice in supporting the PSNI officer, especially since finding out that the victim was a wolf in sheeps clothing.

    I wonder if there would have been any comment from Mr. Wells had the vicitm actually been Catholic?

  • qubol

    F-D “Wells seems to be displaying an Old Unionist attitude of a knee-jerk defence of the police”

    except, when it involves loyalist paramiltaries (Alexandra Bar) OR orange men (White Rock). It would seem that the DUP back the police or attack the police depending on where the votes are.

  • Jacko

    I listened to him both yesterday and this morning. Other than giving him a media platform, what useful purpose can possibly be served by this man waffling on about what he says happened. No consideration, at all, for the family of the dead man.
    Besides that, an inquiry is underway by the police ombudsman, her investigators should be left to do their job without this “Rumpole” using a tragedy to attract media attention to himself.

  • Yokel

    Mickaline has a point in that the victim was a Prod which is also may actually provide an alternative way to consider it versus Fair Deals debating proposition that its knee jerk support based on I’m a unionist ad the cops are unionist.

    It could be suggested that its not merely knee jerk, cops = our pro union cops, but in fact a knee jerk reponse based upon cops = law & order. Whilst all parties have very two faced views on the cops depending on what suits them, we are talking here about an instinctive reaction. Wells made his instinctive reaction and he’s stuck with it.

    Also I’d suspect Jim is more consistent on this than his big smoke based colleagues (+ the Dynasty that is Paisley)who are well noted for their one day we’ll support the cops, next day we’ll pan them, attitude. Rather than taking Well’s comments as being those of the party, they are probably best seen as an individual who has passed comment early and is having to stick to it. I’d also reckon he’s coming from a different viewpoint than a Dodds or Scrappy Do (Paisley Jnr)

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Two days ago, Jim Wells said that as the incident is now being investigated by the Police Ombudsman it would be inappropriate to make any comment. Therefore, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that Mr Wells’ is as keen to undermine the Ombudsman as he is to defend the police.

    Yesterday, Daily Ireland interviewed Colette McConville, whose son was killed by police in similar circumstances in 2003. This was used to criticise the police.

    The SDLP took a fairly critical line on the police, using the death to question its firearms policy in such circumstances and call for the suspension of the officer involved. A reasonable point, but I am not aware of the SDLP providing any alternative suggestions as to how the police should defend themselves in life or death situations more generally. I’m open to correction, of course.

    Today, the PUP’s Ken Wilkinson – a former UVF commander in Antrim who’s had a few run-ins with the police in his time – appears as some kind of spokesman for the victim’s family. He noted that “Steven’s death seems to be becoming a political football”. Perhaps that was irony, as turning things into political footballs is probably Ken’s main aim in life.

    Pretty self-serving all round, if you ask me.

  • Observer

    It seems to me that Jim Wells hasnt passed any comment which would be prejudicial to a trial/investigation and surely that should be what counts.

    However, if it is judged that Jim Wells has been passing comment unnecessarily then surely he is no more or less guilty than all those who have rushed in to judge/blame the Police Officer involved in the incident.

    It seems that the initial reaction of most people to an incident such is this is to put the finger of suspicion on a Police Officer doing his job rather than the driver of a stolen car performing a u-turn at a checkpoint and then driving his car towards innocent people. That is not to say that the incident shouldnt be investigated and if there has been any wrongdoing the Officer should face the consequences.

    Fair Deal
    “Wells seems to be displaying an Old Unionist attitude of a knee-jerk defence of the police.”

    Does he? I’ve seen that attitude in the past and this incident doesnt fit the bill. However, what does seem to be the case that given the background of the individual there are some within loyalist circles who seem to have as little respect/support for the police or any of the forces of law and order as republicans.

  • Canadian

    B-G

    “I am not aware of the SDLP providing any alternative suggestions as to how the police should defend themselves in life or death situations”

    I’m not sure but, wasn’t this guy running away? If so then I don’t think the SDLP need to provide alternative Suggestions. As this was clearly not self defence.

  • fair_deal

    “he is no more or less guilty than all those who have rushed in to judge/blame the Police Officer involved in the incident. ”

    Two wrongs make a right?

    ” Police Officer doing his job rather than the driver of a stolen car performing a u-turn at a checkpoint and then driving his car towards innocent people”

    If an officer uses unreasonable force he/she is not “doing his job”. Did the driver do this?

  • Dec

    … but I am not aware of the SDLP providing any alternative suggestions as to how the police should defend themselves in life or death situations more generally

    As Brian Feeney points out in today’s Irish News, they (the PSNI) could always ask their unarmed colleagues in the Garda or British forces how they deal with such ‘life or death’ incidents.

  • observer

    Fair Deal
    “Two wrongs make a right?”

    Absolutely not. However, you have picked out his comments in isolation. He may have been the only unionist to comment but I dont think that somehow picks out any “old unionist” tendency simply to back the police no matter what (if that ever existed) and I dont think that label was justified in this instance.

    “If an officer uses unreasonable force he/she is not “doing his job”. Did the driver do this?”

    I dont think that anything he said crossed the line into making a pronouncement on this issue – certainly not the interview that I heard. If the Officer is found to have acted wrongly then they must be subject to the law. However, I believe that in an instance like this it seems that innocent until proven guilty applies to everyone except the Police Officer involved.

    Are we not allowed to ask why on earth this individual was “nipping out for a pint of milk” in a stolen BMW with a select few of his friends?

  • Loftholdingswood

    It seems a long way to drive for a pint of milk.

  • fair_deal

    Observer

    “I dont think that label was justified in this instance.”

    Fair enough

    “it seems that innocent until proven guilty applies to everyone except the Police Officer involved.”

    Nowhere have I said or implied the police officer is guilty or innocent. Simply that the independent investigation be allowed to do its work.

    Stealing a car/driving dangerously/speeding etc carry custodial sentences and for any perpetual offender the maximum should be applied (i’d also wish for some pretty damn rigorous probationary supervision post release but regrettably know better than to expect that from our probationary service). None of those offences carry the death penalty.

  • Jacko

    “As Brian Feeney points out in today’s Irish News, they (the PSNI) could always ask their unarmed colleagues in the Garda or British forces how they deal with such ‘life or death’ incidents.”

    Excellent suggestion from Bri.
    Like the Brazilian on the tube, perhaps, or the non-violent arrest of the Border Fox?

  • “Are we not allowed to ask why on earth this individual was “nipping out for a pint of milk” in a stolen BMW with a select few of his friends?”

    5 of his friends actually, according to a report I heard earlier. That must have been some squeeze in the back seat.

  • Dec

    Like the Brazilian on the tube, perhaps, or the non-violent arrest of the Border Fox?

    I think he was referring to the respective forces’ Traffic Branches, none of which have been involved in shoot-to-kill controversies as far as I am aware.

  • missfitz

    Where on earth did the pint of milk story come from?

    And Canadian, the story of him running away was discounted very early on. The body was out of the car for medical attention, but no question of being shot while running

  • Joe

    I am not aware of the SDLP providing any alternative suggestions as to how the police should defend themselves in life or death situations more generally.

    The problem is that this certainly wasn’t a life or death situation for the police officers concerned, given that Mr Colwell was driving away from them at the time. I’m also a bit curious about the ‘protecting a pedestrian and another motorist’ thing, as presumably if Mr Colwell was about to hit a pedestrian and/or another car, this would strongly imply that anyone loosing off a couple of rounds in his general direction had a fairly good chance of hitting them, too.

  • Canadian

    missfitz

    Shooting this guy while he’s driving a car seems reckless to me at least.

  • willis

    Well at least there were plenty of eye witnesses.

  • missfitz

    Look, we will have to wait for the official facts to come out.

    From the extra little bits I’ve heard, there were other elements to this that make it potentially very sinister. Please dont condemn the police on this as yet, there is nore to it than meets the eye

  • TAFKABO

    A pox on all your houses.

    From the very beginning boths sides have been obscenely quick to chip in with the nods and the winks.
    This young man was dehumanised and his death dismissed and excused from the get go.
    If it wasn’t one side linking him to Johnny adair or accusing him of being on some mission to kill catholics (sure he was wearing a celtic top, and only protestants on a mission to kill catholics wear celtic tops).
    Next we get the likes of Jim Wells with the even more stupid suggestion that he was shot to save the lives of a woman and child who couldn’t get out of the way of his vehicle, that’s right, vehicle was heading towards a woman and child, so a policeman thought the best thing to do was shoot the driver of the vehicle travelling at speed towards the woman and child…..

    Were the woman and child trapped in cement or something?, they couldn’t get out of the way but a policeman had enough time to assess the situation and decide that shooting the driver was the only option available?

    Hello?

    Is this scenario remotely feasible under any circumstances whatsoever?

    But hey, don’t worry, because we now have the perfect outcome according to Slugger regulars, namely a society in which we are all shit scared of the police.
    Yes, the best way to ensure a healthy crime free society is by having trigger happy cops.
    (Look at America)

    But anyway, we musn’t rush to judge the Police, especially not when we’re saving all our rushed judgement for the dead guy in the Celtic top.

  • missfitz

    Tafkabo

    I take it then that you are fully apprised of the facts as they are currently known to the police and ombudsman?

    Oh… wait…. you’re not? No of course you’re not.

    This man was on his way back from somewhere he shouldnt have been, having done something he shouldnt have done, and had people in the car to do God knows what with. There was the potential for some very nasty outcomes here.

    None of it doesnt and never did justify summary execution. But I do not believe that this was a summary execution. It was a split second decision based on visual assesment, prior facts and knowledge of the situation.

    Judge not and all that eh?

  • TAFKABO

    Missfitz.

    Let’s assume for the sake of the discussion that what you are saying is correct.What Possible relevance could any of these ‘facts’ have to do with the way this young man died?
    What could he have been ding that merited the use of firearms?
    What we know is that one person was killed,and that person was the driver of the vehicle.
    there is no suggestion that the police attepted to shoot any other member of the party, and working from that assumption it seems that the intent was to stop the vehicle.
    This brings me back to my original point.
    Nowhere else in the UK or Ireland is lethal force used in the pursuit of vehicular crime, or as a means of bringing a vehicle to a stationary position.
    there is no argument you could make that would convince me that what happens in Northern Ireland ought to be so different.

  • missfitz

    link 1

    link 2

    link 3

    [edited links – moderator]

    Taf

    I could keep going. I wont.

    I concede that there is a situation here where armed police have been seen as the norm, and that is not sustainable in the long term or desirable.

    However, an armed response is appropriate in certain situations, and we will have to see if this was that kind of situation.

  • TAFKABO

    Missfitz.

    I’d say only the first of those links is relevant to the discussion here.
    Armed response units are a normal and understandable reaction to seeing a group of people with guns (even if they turn out to be fake).

    Your first link however is evidence that the UK mainland police will consider an armed response to vehicular crime.How many times have they fired upon suspects?
    How many times have they decided that the best way to stop a vehicle is to shoot the driver?
    What do you think the general reaction would be if they did shoot dead the driver of a stolen car? (that’s not a reference to the case under discussion, just a hypothetical situation).

    You finished you post by saying However, an armed response is appropriate in certain situations, and we will have to see if this was that kind of situation.

    But from all I have read so far, most people have made up their minds that this was an appropriate use of force and have used various and widely differing stories in efforts to convince others that it was.

  • missfitz

    I can do no more.

    There are facts out in the public domain.They are there in little pieces.
    Start putting them together.

    The youths were wearing celtic jerseys. There were 2 catholic girls in the car. The youths had stolen the car and picked the girls up to give them a lift. Girls thought they were safe in the car with the taigs.
    The car was travelling at speed toward Ballynahinch and saw the roadblock. The driver rammed a police car and was doing a doughnut turn, but behind it was someone who was having trouble walking. You also had another car with an infant.

    Split second decision. Fire at car, hope to disable. Guy gets killed.

    I dunno, maybe my years in the bad days in the Bronx have de-sensitised me and has made me a neo-con, but I think that the greater good must be served, and if that means lethal force, well frig it so be it.

    Maybe we have all become a little desensitised, and you are right Taf. You are looking at this from a distance, albeit a knowledgeable one. I think I remember what it felt like to be shocked by NI once upon a time, but no more.

    Welcome to Dodge

  • elfinto

    Missfitz,

    Where does this information about the girls come from? I have been following this story closely but I have not come across this angle to the story before.

  • missfitz

    Which bit Elfinto? It was clearly stated in the news that they were catholic, is that the bit you missed?

  • elfinto

    I do not live in Norn Iron and therefore must rely on the Internet for my info.

  • missfitz

    Right, okay elfinto, I didnt know that. Well, I admit that I know a little more, but anything I have written is absolutely and completely available on news sources, papers and the net.

  • elfinto

    I just watched BBC Newsline on the Net and no mention of this info.

    It’s a potentially very sinister twist but, then again, it might not be sinister at all.

  • Jim

    I wonder if the shooting will mean a significant decrease in the amount of stolen cars in the local area.

  • Tiny

    Wells isn’t the first politician to get involved, the SDLP calling for the suspension of the PSNI involved were the first, suspension in the minds of many equals guilt, for example, man with gun runs up to John Hume, points gun at him, but before he can squeeze the trigger is shot by PSNI officer standing nearby, would the SDLP be calling for the officer’s suspension, Wells was’nt the first to rush to judgement

  • Yokel

    If we find out the poor man was about to tkae a civilian out with this car we might change our minds….

  • walk on the wild side

    I was unfortunate enough to arrive at the scene of the shooting shortly after it happened. The car must have passed by me on its way into B’Hinch. Had the car and its occupants managed to escape, it would have been coming in my direction. The police did appear distressed by the outcome. Mass/church goers were standing in the vicinity of the shooting and the reckless car manoeuvre. The occupants of the car got out of the vehicle with their beer bottles (Bud)in hand. Judging by the abuse the police were receiving from the male occupants I doubt most people would have volunteered to approach these young brigands to put an end to their ‘joyride’. We rely on others to do that frightening job for us. I’m pretty sure the officer and the ‘driver’ concerned would prefer to relive their options at the moment that changed their lives. The rest of us are safe.