For me and many others who work in the world of policing and other frontline services, 18th September, 2012 is a date we won’t forget. The day two PC’s responded to a burglary in progress – a routine job that officers respond to every day up and down the country. However, it wasn’t a routine job – it was a bogus call made by Dale Cregan. Cregan was a drug dealer and wanted for the murders of Mark and David Short and three other people.
PC Nicola Hughes and PC Fiona Bone responded to the call and as they walked up the path towards the front door of the address given, Cregan opened the door and immediately started shooting them. He discharged 32 bullets in 31 seconds and continued to shoot PC Hughes to the head as she lay on the ground. PC Bone managed to draw her taser as he showered more bullets on her.
I’m wanted by the police, I’ve just done two coppers
He then threw a M75 hand grenade at the officers before walking to a police station and stating “I’m wanted by the police, I’ve just done two coppers”. There was tension in the area following the murders of Mark Short in May 2012 and his father David three months later, and concern because Cregan was still wanted by police. Therefore, there will have been a community impact assessment for the area together with a threat assessment for officers attending incidents. When a call comes through to a ‘Force Control Room’ they use the ‘National Decision-Making Model’ (NDM) and document the rationale behind deployment of officers.
If there is a heightened threat, the call handling staff notify the Force Incident Manager who will make an assessment on how it is to be managed. Critical incidents are referred to a senior officer who will make decisions regarding the handling of the incident. All firearm deployments are made by a qualified Tactical Firearms Commander again using the NDM. So during this time and with the intelligence on Cregan, if a call had come through from him, from a known address, the deployment would have been managed differently. With the information the police were presented with and the type of incident it was, officers were deployed in the manner they would be every day to such a job… They wore their body armour, they had their tasers etc. but against Cregan’s Glock semi-automatic pistol and grenade, combined with his hatred of the police, they simply stood no chance.
This was the first time two female police officers had been shot on duty like this, but it is unfortunately one case in a long list of officers killed on duty. The National Memorial Day Organisation lists 4,000 officers killed in the line of duty since 1792 and 256 officers, including PC’s Bone and Hughes, have been shot since 1945. Recent cases include Sharon Beshenivsky in West Yorkshire who was shot responding to an armed robbery and Richard Gray shot in 2007 in West Mercia. The fifth stage of the NDM is ‘action and review’ – what lessons can you take, what would you do differently, evaluating the impact of your decisions etc.
Following all critical incidents senior officers scrutinise every decision made. Chief Superintendent Nick Adderley from GMP has talked frankly, with compassion and integrity about his thoughts following the deaths of PC’s Bone and Hughes and stated “Even now I can’t think what I could have done differently based on the information we had at the time” (Greater Manchester Evening News, 2013). The fact is in this case there is nothing more he could have done. Cregan callously lured two innocent officers to their deaths and due to the devious manner in which he enacted his plan, PC’s Bone and Hughes were on their way to certain death when they responded to the call.
Apart from deploying firearms officers to every call for service, which would not be proportionate or justifiable, nothing else could be done. And in anticipation of the ‘arm all our officers’ argument, I point you in the direction of the numbers of officers killed in the US, an average of 146 a year for the past ten years. The fact is police officers go into potentially dangerous situations day in and day out, every time they knock on a door they could be met with an unexpected situation. We don’t hear about the many injuries officers get every day in the line of duty. This man took away the life of two officers in cold blood while they were trying to do a job they loved. The result of this case – Cregan received life with a whole life order (WLO). For many WLO’s are an issue to be debated; for me in this case, anything less is not acceptable.