London, United Kingdom—Sir Craig Mackey, Scotland Yard’s Deputy Commissioner, locked himself in a car while a terrorist stabbed his colleague, Police Constable Keith Palmer, to death.
The incident occurred last year outside the Houses of Parliament, in London. A radical Islamist, Khalid Masood, drove a car over pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, crashed the vehicle into the security fence that shields the heart of the British political establishment, and proceeded into a stabbing spree before he was neutralized by armed police officers. Five people were killed and over 50 injured.
At the time, the unarmed PC Palmer was patrolling outside the House of Commons. Although unarmed, he tried to stop Masood. The terrorist, however, overcame him and stabbed him several times with a butcher knife. Despite the valiant efforts of EMTs and pedestrians, PC Palmer succumbed to his wounds.
An inquest over the incident has revealed that Mackey, who was returning with colleagues from a meeting with government members, locked himself inside the car because he didn’t have protective or radio equipment.
“There was quite a lot of confusion about what was going on. The attacker had one of those looks where, if they get you in that look, they would be after you. He seemed absolutely focused on getting further down and attacking anyone who was in his way,” said Mackey during the inquest.
When asked about his response to the sight of PC Palmer being stabbed to death, Mackey said that “First and foremost I was a police officer, so I went to open the door to get out. [But] that’s when I thought: ‘I have got to start putting everything we need in place. We have got no protective equipment, no radio, I have got two colleagues with me who are quite distressed,’ so we moved out.”
But some moved toward the sound of fighting. Among the paramedics and police officers who rushed to the scene was Tobias Ellwood, a Defense Minister with a military background. Although unarmed and in suit and tie, he desperately tried first to stabilize and then resuscitate PC Palmer.
Contrast Ellwood’s actions with Mackey’s following statement: “I was conscious my two colleagues were not police officers. If anyone had got out, the way this Masood was looking, anyone who got in his way would have been a target. I think anyone who came up against that individual would have faced serious, serious injury, if not death.”
So, was Sir Craig Mackey a coward or rational? Granted, he was with two unarmed civilians. But, he could have gone out to tackle the terrorist without jeopardizing their safety—locking car doors doesn’t require law enforcement training. But then again, he was the Metropolitan Police’s chief, and subordinates would look up to him to coordinate the law enforcement response to what seemed like a coordinated terrorist attack. But they would also look up to him for leadership under fire. And in that, he came short.
Mackey will be retiring in December after 34 years of service. Not the best way to end a respectable career.