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Article posted Feb 20 2013, 4:27 PM Category: Big Brother/Orwellian Source: Techdirt Print

Armed UK Police Raid House Over Facebook Picture Showing Toy Weapon In Background

by Glyn Moody

One of the reasons Techdirt rails against exaggerated responses to supposed terrorist threats is that it has caused police forces around the world to lose all sense of proportion -- literally, in the case of this UK story from the Daily Mail.

It began when Ian Driscoll decided to post a picture to his Facebook page. It was of an Action Man doll, accompanied by a toy Alsatian dog. Why? you might ask. Well, "as a laugh", he says, because the Action Man figure looked a lot like him, and he had a real Alsatian -- which sounds entirely reasonable. What Driscoll did not note at the time, though, was that lurking in the background of the picture was another toy: a model mortar.



Unfortunately, a few weeks later, someone else spotted that toy mortar and, mindful of the incessant UK government propaganda about terrorists being everywhere, duly over-reacted and reported the image. Even more unfortunately, the police also over-reacted -- to the extent of sending five officers, two armed with sub-machine guns (and you thought they didn't carry them in the UK), ready to smash down Driscoll's front door and go in with guns blazing against this supposed terrorist cell.

Luckily, Driscoll was there, and was able to defuse the situation by showing them the mortar in question. He was able to point out that it was in fact only slightly larger than the nearby Playstation that was clearly visible in the snap he had posted, and considerably smaller than the table that was also prominent in the Facebook picture. He might even have pointed out that the figure and dog in his upload were quite obviously toys to anyone who spent more than three seconds examining the picture. The police had presumably decided not to waste those precious three seconds before acting. Instead, as a spokesperson later said:
'We are sure that the community would rather we acted quickly on information given to us of this nature, in case it had turned out to be a weapon.'
Well, no, actually: what the community would really like is for the police to use some intelligence before reaching for the sub-machine guns. If they had just stopped and looked carefully at the picture, it would have been evident that there was no possible threat here. And that's likely to be the case for many other incidents around the world where the police have assumed the worst.

That not only represents a huge waste of their valuable time and resources, it also perpetuates the corrosive idea that we should be constantly afraid and ready to report anything and anyone odd or vaguely suspicious, no matter how absurd it would seem to anyone looking at things rationally. This then creates a self-sustaining loop of public fear and police over-reaction. It's time to scale the rhetoric back, and to make common-sense judgements common again.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+





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Comments 1 - 3 of 3 Add Comment Page 1 of 1
Anonymous

Posted: Feb 21 2013, 1:20 AM

Link
68255 The only thing I can't agree with in this article is that this was "huge waste of their valuable time and resources". I have a feeling that in fact, this kind of "threat" is about the only one these specific resources readily react to. And accordingly, their reaction was so swift and decisive not because they did not spare the 3 seconds to examine the picture and realize it's nothing, but exactly and specifically because they did.
keudo

Posted: Feb 21 2013, 10:49 AM

Link
I would rather the time and resources be spent on public works projects - restoring parks, monuments, bridges - creating work and pay for people who have neither, much like the CC in the USA did. Police shouldn't be given so much funding that they can purchase and maintain massive armories that would make any platoon of Army soldiers salivate.
L.S.

Posted: Feb 21 2013, 5:00 PM

Link
68255, do you ever feel as though you're being lied to?
i was looking at honest police vs. their dishonest employers, and, i couldn't see what was the benefit for the employers; i mean, in regards to lying to their police. so, i had to circle in the other direction.

their is no benefit to the "employers," the way i see it. but if i stop circling and stand behind them one at a time, they all benefit. if i were a cop, i'd throw a pork chop in the middle, which is better odds than they give their police.

keudo, why should the government pay for it? if you'd like to see restorations being done, talk to business owners, have them donate supplies, and organize a voluteer restoration effort.

and here in u.s.a. it didn't make a bit of difference, having the government to fund those projects. the same people who benefited from the projects, are the same people who sat on their butts in the first place. now that the money has been used up, they want to be paid for the upkeep.

up until that point ^ up there, i was even trying to do my part. now... well, it's a good example of how to make a nation turn on its government.


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