Thursday, 1 December 2011

Smiley Culture: Only the truth can justify this pain

March for Justice - London March 2011 - picture by Jerry Barnett
The inevitable conclusion of the Independent Police Complaints Commission that no police officer will face any charges or disciplinary charges as a result of the death of world reggae icon Smiley Culture aka David Emmanuel, illustrates both the inadequacy of the IPCC and the cold stone reality that for the British black community, justice remains a burning illusion.

Mark Duggan, David Emmanuel, Kingsley Burrell, Demetre Fraser and the horrific desecration and foul abuse suffered recently by the Christopher Adler family all represent cases that have left the black community and many white people who understand their significance reeling in shock and anger.

L - R: Kingsley Burrell, Demetre Fraser, David Emanuel

Government to apologise to Alder family over police cell death
Christopher Alder -

Failure to tackle institutional racism costs us all.

However, the appalling truth is that within Government, the London Mayors Office and the senior ranks of the police, there is no real appreciation or understanding of the depth of anger and injustice that these tragic cases generate in our communities.

That’s because racism and institutional racism are no longer considered priorities and the results are, that the invaluable lessons learned from the inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence murder have now been discarded as "political correctness gone mad."  That fundamental mistake has cost London and the country dear and will do so again in the future.

What’s not understood is that a black death in police custody represents the perennial fault line in relations between the British police and black communities. When Mark Duggan was shot he was the fourth black man to die in suspicious circumstances since January this year. Since then more have died. Had that raw sensitivity and anger relating to these tragic events been better understood then maybe the riots that took place this summer could have been avoided.

R.I.P Mark Duggan
Picture from R.I.P Mark Duggan

The critical fault line in police black community relations

Deaths in police custody remains the one issue that can transform police and community relations in an instant. This issue above almost all others' taps into the deep psyche of the British black community

The very idea of black men and women being statutorily detained, treated like animals and dying at the brutal hands of callous and arrogant racists protected by unjust and inequitable laws sends a shiver down the spine of every black family in the land.

It’s a story we know well; engrained as it is deep in our DNA and collective memories. A modern day equivalent of a Jim Crow lynching in America’s old Deep South or the brutality of the South African Apartheid regime or the beating of Rodney King. Brutal white racism backed up by institutionally racist organisations of state that conspire to deny black people the justice they deserve.

In modern-day Britain very few police officers have ever been charged and none convicted of manslaughter or murder. What we see those effected experience are the impenetrable barriers of ancient laws, lengthy and complex procedures and enormous costs that make the attainment of justice seem like an unobtainable dream.

The systemic racism and innate injustice of the institutions of state are the real problem.

The overwhelming perception of black communities is that the current system of IPCC investigation and Coroner inquests is so stacked against all citizens that in effect, it protects the guilty and denies access to justice to the victims.

Whether one looks at the investigative procedures of the IPCC, hidebound and contingent on a phalanx of Byzantine rules and procedures, or one examines the medieval coroner inquest system whose creaking and ancient procedures leave families aghast at the way this system of inquiry fails to meet the basic test of justice and liberty in the 21st century, the outcome is the same: a routine and consistent denial of justice and a failure to enable an exacting search for the truth.

The institution under the greatest strain in terms of its effectiveness and credibility is the IPCC. With a predictable monotony they routinely fail to assist in the search for the truth. The case of Mark Duggan has torn their battered credibility to shreds. What we have seen in the IPCC investigation of Duggan’s shooting is an enfeebled organisation with weak leadership in deep collusion with the police. 

March against deaths in custody - police reinforcements in front of Downing Street
Heavy handed policing at the UFFC march last month. (Photo by  Delroy Constantine Simms)
Independent Police Complaint Cover (Up)

The IPCC was used to legitimise and corroborate a web of lies and misinformation surrounding the shooting of Mark Duggan. The majority of the IPCC community reference group designed to provide community reassurance about the rigor, effectiveness course and direction of the investigation resigned in utter disgust at the consistent and systemic failure of the IPCC to disclose critical information regarding this tragic event and hold the police to proper account.

Bizarrely, the IPCC treated the police officers involved in the Smiley arrest, as witnesses not suspects. This meant that the officers were allowed to refuse interviews or provide an adequate account under questioning and therefore, failed to provide proper explanations of their actions and the IPCC. They point blank refused to give a formal interview to the IPCC. The question is why? I believe the only reasonable answer is that they had something to hide.

Here is another massive anomaly. Why, according to the police officer accounts, did they handcuff Smiley after he stabbed himself through the heart? It is incomprehensible and unbelievable that they did so and no one I have spoken to believes that’s what happened. I believe this is a mendacious and malicious false account of what happened that day.

Everyone knows and understands that in a serious police raid, everyone is arrested and handcuffed whilst the property is searched. That’s standard police procedure.

In plain English, I believe the police officers involved are lying.

The Emanuel family struggling for justice against the odds

The David Emanuel family has acted with great dignity and restraint throughout the last 9 months. They initially expressed serious doubts about the ability of the IPCC to aid them in the search for the truth, and they were absolutely right in their assessment.

Speaking to the Guardian and expressed with great eloquence Merlin Emanuel speaks for all families when he says,

"We firmly believe Smiley was murdered and that the IPCC have let us down and treated us miserably," said Merlin Emanuel.
They promised us a thorough investigation, and that they would get to the bottom of what happened. Nevertheless, there are still so many unanswered questions – and the IPCC have now made sure that the officers who saw what happened are never going to be pressed to tell the truth about what happened that day," he said.

Summing up he said,

"Our experience has led us to the sad and awful conclusion that not only will there continue to be deaths in police custody but that grieving families will not receive justice or empathy from the system as it currently operates”.

One is a full and independent public judicial inquiry into deaths in police custody and the process of inquest. This could seek to draw a line under the past 50 years that have seen family after family doubly victimized as they are broken in the endless search for the truth. Such an inquiry would offer a new opportunity to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done.

The other is parliamentary and legislative reform of the now discredited IPCC. Such reform could grant more powers, authority and true independence to these investigations and the work of the IPCC enabling the forensic search for the truth.

My own assessment of the future is that none of this will happen soon, and it is therefore, inevitable that we will see more suspicious deaths followed by an enfeebled inconclusive IPCC cover up investigations. If I am right that we have not seen the last of riotous disturbance for where there is no justice, there can be no peace. 

Lee Jasper