Friday, December 21, 2007

Another Police Fiasco

One of the last atrocities in the string that comprised the last round of Ireland's 'troubles' came to an end in an Ulster courtroom this week with the dismissal of the case against Sean Hooey the only man charged with the Omagh bombing.

The bombing of the market in the Northern Ireland town of Omagh on a Saturday morning in August of 1998 took the lives of 29 people. It was a final outrage at what seemed to be the end of the of the sectarian violence that had started 33 years before. Another bombing by a splinter terror group that was made more effective by faulty police communications which directed people into the blast rather than away from it. From the 'get go' it was a police cock-up.

The case against Hooey was marginal at best and based mainly on DNA evidence. Not the normal DNA evidence but a rather more iffy sort where one or two cells are built into a profile. It was apparent from the outset that the method itself was unreliable. But it was even more evident that some wishful thinking had been turned into a police reality that took little professional care in gathering evidence or in using it objectively. The police set-up Hooey, but they bungled even that.

Hooey walked out of court a free man, but in the minds of many a freed killer. The police have yet to apologize to him, let alone admit that they made errors, venial or grievous in nature. Hooey's a walking target for the payback that is yet a reality, too.

The RUC who initiated the investigation were transmogrified into the nominally less biased but equally as incompetent Ulster Police Service. Officers in command remained in command and received the promotions due their state. They were promoted despite incompetence and many are still in office.

The judge castigated them openly for their poor performance and any ramifications for improvement remain to be seen. Save to say the the UPS will be looking into all cases where such DNA, as was used against Hooey, was used against others. They won't be doing that any more.

The UPS still carries a lot of baggage from the troubles when police work became an adjunct of the military action. Intelligence gathering and involvement in 'wet jobs' on behalf of the Crown forces have been indicated but never investigated. If the RUC was paramilitary when the 'troubles' started, it was thoroughly militarized when they ended. That it was a sectarian organization at the outset and isn't any longer is only a recent development. The command staff remain largely the same.

As I've alluded in other posts the former RUC holds a cachet in police circles shared by few other organizations. Many of its members have emigrated and have taken places in other police organizations. They have brought their 'bunker mentality' with them, or inculcated it to others to combat 'terrorists'. Police services, while claiming to be more accountable than ever, have actually become the opposite, far more closed and removed from society. They only thing they don't wear is black masks - or most of them don't. No policeman wants his calling bruited abroad, or his residence, or his personal information - they take great pains to maintain 'privacy' that other public servants don't get. Police 'stations' have suddenly acquired the trappings of high security buildings. Places where people once went for help, remain closed to the public by and large. Public admittance seems restricted to the accused.

A bunker mentality in a police 'service' is a contraindication of what the job should be about.

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