Monday, 21 November 2011

The Mayor, the IPCC, the Metropolitan Police Service and London’s black communities: a tale of woe

R.I.P Mark Duggan
Picture from R.I.P Mark Duggan
The debacle of the bungled Independent Police Compliant Commissions “ independent “ investigation over the shooting of Mark Duggan signal is shocking and is now spiraling completely out of control.

 IPCC has lost credibility and community confidence.

 Many others and I fought for the creation of the IPCC to replace the discredited Police Complaints Authority. The reality is today those ardent supporters of the concept of independent police investigations are profoundly disappointed with the overall performance of the IPCC. The organisation seems to be rudderless at the moment and incapable of establishing a clear and independent identity that can demonstrate objectivity and fierce determination in the search for the truth.

 The IPCC is in real danger of losing its entire credibility with black communities and needs to set out an urgent case for reform, including strengthening its investigative powers and excluding former police officers from working as independent investigators.  It needs to set out how it intends to reform itself and win back community trust and confidence.

Deaths in custody remain the fault line in police and black community relations.

 Mark Duggan’s shooting was the catalyst for the summer riots that took place in August. However, what many people are completely unaware of is that Mark Duggan was the fourth black man to die in deeply suspicious circumstances whilst in police custody in England since January this year. His death followed the deaths of Smiley Culture, Kingsley Burrell and Demetre Fraser. Since Mark’s death there has been one more tragic death of a black man in controversial circumstances, that of Jake Michaels in Cheshire.

Deaths in custody represent the seminal fault line in English police and black community relations. This issue runs deep reviving memories of a time when black men were hunted like dogs and killed by psychopathic white racists. 

From slavery to apartheid and onto the streets of London, this issue remains current and informed by both a historic and contemporary black experience of policing characterized at times by racism resulting in overwhelming and unnecessary force.

Black men have always been hugely over represented in deaths in police custody figures over the last 30 years.  Cases such as those of Clinton McCurbin, Colin Roach, Roger Sylvester and Brian Douglas are just a few of the familiar names known in the black community all of who have died after brutal contact with the police.

 As a community we are yet to witness a single police officer successfully convicted with any offence despite the controversy surrounding these cases.

Mayor rejects the concept of institutional racism and gives a green light to discrimination.

When it comes to tackling institutional racism the lead comes from the very top. Boris Johnson has inculcated a patronising Etonesque ‘colour blind ' policy and political culture at City Hall. Put simply no one at City Hall understands racism or thinks challenging discrimination is a real priority for London.

This attitude is distinguished by the casual dismissal of race issues and has given rise to administrative culture that has given a tacit green light to a group of senior MPS police officers that have always despised the Lawrence Inquiry and its recommendations. As a result anti racism in policing as a policy priority has been dismissed as a direct result of the example set by the Mayor himself.

Neither the Mayor nor the current Commissioner believes that the Metropolitan Police Service is an institutionally racist organisation. The Mayor declared the very same in the Metropolitan Police Authority Race and Faith Report published in 2010. This is a serious political error of huge proportions in a City like London.

Unrestrained stop and search alienates communities.

In operational policing terms, the Mayor sanctioned a massive increase in stop and search rates in response to youth violence. That led to communities becoming increasingly alienated from police officers as they saw racist stop and searches taking place without any restraint or accountability. Last year alone saw a 70% increase and since 2008, the total increase has been a staggering 300%.

As for the Mayor Boris Johnson, his preferred approach seems to be from the Sepp Blatter school of tackling institutional racism. A friendly handshake, a smile and the vilest racism can be dismissed, excused and forgiven.

Of course, the Mayor’s Office is not the only organisation with little or no appreciation of the reality of the issues of racism and policing.

IPCC loses credibility with black communities.

Today, we learn from Stafford Scott, writing a powerful piece in the Guardian that he has decided along with a second member of the IPCC Community Reference Group to resign.

 This follows their initial collusion with the lies put out by the police and endorsed by the IPCC, falsely claiming that Mark had shot a police officer. Let’s be absolutely clear about this that was a blatant lie.

If Boris Johnson office had the necessary political experience and community links within Tottenham, he would have known that. I knew within an hour of the shooting that the community had labeled the police version of events a lie and in policing terms one has to police according to a community’s perceptions.

 This serious political failure to understand and have an appreciation of black communities and policing issues allowed frustration and anger to build up. The cost to the country and London would be many millions of pounds; it is remarkable that this Mayor continues to evade responsibility for failing to provide real leadership at a time of crisis.

IPCC has fatally compromised the investigation into Mark Duggan’s death.

Stafford Scott was one of the members of the IPCC Community Reference Group (CRG) established to provide reassurance to a skeptic community that the police actually removed the taxi that Mark Duggan was traveling in minutes after he had been shot.

 The IPCC investigator agreed that the vehicle could be moved before the IPCC investigators had even reached the scene. Why did the Police want to move the vehicle and why did the IPCC investigator agree to that request?

 What we now know is that there is no forensic evidence linking Mark to the gun found in a sock found at the scene. However, we are told that a ‘box ‘that was found in the back of the taxi had Marks DNA on it.  The box, it is suggested, had contained the gun found at the scene.

Their assumption we are expected to believe is that Mark placed the gun in the box, put the box in the back of a taxi and set out according to police to seek his revenge for the killing of a close friend of his.

 If the taxi was removed by the police minutes after Mark was shot who can say whether the ‘box’ was actually in the taxi or placed there by the police themselves? 

The gun was used in a previously reported crime and there now seems to be real confusion about whether the crime was investigated or not and the gun impounded as evidence.

 There also very serious questions to be asked if the crime was not investigated. For example how is that such a serious and violent crime can be ignored leaving the public at risk? This will undermine the extent the public has confidence of reporting such crimes to the police.

Stafford Scott was right to resign, as was his colleague. There can be no doubt that the IPCC has completely compromised this investigation. The current IPCC commissioner should be replaced .Our call for a public inquiry into deaths in custody has never been so urgent and necessary.

 These are the many questions that are swirling around concerned communities in London. These are the issues that are being routinely ignored by a Mayor and a Commissioner, who remain largely oblivious to demand for justice from London’s black communities. The reality is that should there be another death in custody in London and these issues are not effectively recognised and dealt with by the Mayor and the IPCC the fire next time could make the summer riots look tame.

Lee Jasper