Saturday, March 9, 2013

A situation

When I’m not thinking about bicycles my mind tends to wander a bit. Quite a bit actually. Like the sort of society we live in where police feel unable to admit that they shot an armed man (twice actually) who was acting erratically in a busy mall in Brisbane city. The official police statement is that he was shot with a “bean bag round”. But he had ballistic injuries consistent with bullet wounds. Not to mention a bullet embedded in his arm. If this is misinformation spread by (a) lazy or misguided journalist(s) then the police are clearly not doing anything to correct it. Unfortunately I think it is more likely to be a wanton lie.

A man with a record known to police acts erratically in a busy public place brandishing a hand gun. Police try to control the situation, cordon off the area, are unable to negotiate a way out, then shoot him (non-lethally in his arm and hand). Now I’m no expert on police protocol and I am as sceptical about how some policemen go about their duty as I am about how some doctors, lawyers, businessmen, tradesmen, and academics go about theirs. But the police are a professional force with a governing body. In general, they have a good reputation in Australia. They made a call in a critical situation based on the available information and their experience in dealing with such matters. And, given the magnitude of such action, these cases are often reviewed to see how they can be better tackled in the future. If you will, this is part of their training and this is what they are trained to do.

The sequence of events seems understandable, even if it did not achieve the desired outcome, to a layperson like myself. Now I don’t particularly like it when anyone gets shot (and I especially don’t like it when I am on call). But these things happen and I think most of us accept that. Yet the police feel they need to lie to the public. Either they really fcuked up (which I doubt). Or they feel that the public, as Colonel Nathan Jessop might say, “can’t handle the truth” (which I also doubt). Or they fear repercussions from a critical media and a cynical public. Both too ready to pass judgement.

Most people realise that news items, like blockbuster movies, open with a bang then fade off rapidly as we lose interest. In a couple of days few would care what happened at a mall in a middling city in Australia. A tacit admission by police that this chap was shot in extenuating circumstances might surface as evidence mounts. Emphasizing an investigation into the matter will ease our minds as our attention gets drawn elsewhere. And so another story fades to black.

I know I am old and I'm titillated by uncool stuff like Nana Mouskouri and nature documentaries. But these days it seems that just about everyone is getting more confident (good in many ways) and full of their own opinion (not so good). Add greater means of expression via social media and what we have is sensation and dynamite. 

When facing public scrutiny it pays not to excite anyone.

In my old-fashioned world, to question is to seek knowledge. To understand, reason then act is to be committed. To judge is to assume a position of authority.

Of course there is still that possibility of sloppy journalism.