Wednesday was a cold wet windy day in London, it was the kind of day where people scuttle hurriedly with purpose, through shimmering grey damped streets. A day when peoples coats were hermetically sealed around them, when the wind whipped by in sudden squalls. Just another day in London city.
This was no ordinary winter’s day however. England, had what I would call its ‘Rodney King’ moment as we witnessed the conclusion of a three month inquiry into the shooting of Mark Duggan by Operation Trident Metropolitan Police Officers.
An inquest jury considered whether the 29-year-old Tottenham father was lawfully or unlawfully killed when he was shot dead in Ferry Lane, Tottenham Hale, on August 4, 2011.
The jury sat through three months of evidence and pondered for five long tense days, punctuated by the Christmas break, and considered whether Mark Duggan a 29-year-old Tottenham father was lawfully or unlawfully killed when he was shot dead in Ferry Lane, Tottenham Hale, on August 4, 2011.
No ordinary day January 8th will be remembered as the day when yet again British justice failed a black community.
The 10-strong jury of three men and seven women delivered a confused verdict that many people have simply failed to understand.
They concluded that there was no case to answer and despite what the inquest coroner Judge Cutler called ‘stark inconsistencies’ in police evidence, they concluded Mark Duggan had not had a gun in his hand when he left that fateful mini cab after being subject to a ‘hard stop’ by the London anti-gang unit Trident, they decided despite this Mark Duggan had been ‘lawfully killed ‘
When the decision was announced all hell broke loose as the pent up anger, frustration, tension, grief and sadness spilled both inside and out of the Royal Courts of Justice.
There were huge discrepancies in the police version of events Judge Keith Cutler made a point of highlighting these stark inconsistencies’ during his summing up of the at 12-week hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in December last year .
He pointed out that the evidence of a Met Police Sergeant who was the operational firearms commander and tactical advisor in Duggan’s arrest team appeared to be “directing officers to go and secure a gun which hadn’t yet been found”.
In statements made in the aftermath of the shooting, the same officer said he had asked another officer, to look for the gun. However this was undermined by other evidence, from three armed PCs who arrived on scene shortly after the shooting of Mark Duggan. All, including the supervising Sergeant, later gave statements saying another senior officer directed them to the gun and instructed them to secure it.
However in damming evidence seen by the jury, a witness’s video footage clearly shows the gun being found only after the three PCs first speak to the Sergeant. At the time of Marks death many suspected the Metropolitan police had in fact planted the gun at the scene to justify his shooting. This evidence gives those views further credence.
However without this crucial video evidence the Jury would have no doubt simply accepted the Police version of events as the truth. The fact is Police officers involved lied.
This verdict also signals the death of Operation Trident a subject I have written extensively, you can read more here . The fact is that the credibility Operation Trident used to enjoy has long gone and the unit should now simply be disbanded. Its reputation has become toxic as a result Mark Duggan’s killing .
Judge Cutler told the jury during his summing in December that “Without that BBC footage that would have been completely accepted and we would not be talking about it,” “Everyone might have felt quite secure about that account if it hadn’t been for Witness B. He added “It is not a question of anybody being mistaken. It is something which is a direct contradiction here; there is that stark problem.”
More than one officer s told the inquest that they had found the gun. Judge Cutler said: “There’s a lot of people finding the gun but not telling anybody else about it.”
The suggestion that Mark Duggan threw the gun into some nearby bushes is inexplicable and irrational. All eleven officers who gave evidence never saw Duggan dispose of the gun, there was no forensic evidence to support his association with the gun, none of the independent witnesses saw him throw a gun and yet a weapon was found some 20 feet away and without a shred of evidence the jury concluded that Duggan had somehow disposed of the gun prior to his arrest.
Judge Cutler also reminded jurors that while tests showed it was possible to throw the gun into the bushes from where Mr Duggan was shot, one medical expert had told them he would have needed “great willpower” to do so having just been shot in that arm, and that the theory didn’t really tie in with witnesses’ accounts.
In 2011 the reaction to the shooting of Mark Duggan was to spark disturbances right across the country as anger against the police exploded onto the streets. Of course there were those criminal element who were intent on looting and looting alone.
However the Guardian’s Reading the Riots report explained that the simplistic dismissal of the events of August 1th 2011 as simply criminally motivated as described by the Prime Minister David Cameron is factually wrong. This deep alienation born of police harassment and economic exclusion provides the rational for the tragic events that unfolded
Their report pointed to the widespread anger and dissatisfaction of many young people with the roughhouse policing including stop and search, a basic lack of respect from officers.
It’s reputation has become toxic as a result and mirrors the on-going reputational decline of the Metropolitan Police Service.
There is a link between these contemporary issues and black people’s historical experience of oppression. As a result we are hyper sensitive to the treatment of black people at the hands of statutory authorities be it the police, schools or mental health institutions. Our history is replete with a constant stream of injustice and tragedy. Our deepest fears, generated by our own history is to die brutally at the hands of the police. Our latent fear is informed by our experiencing of lynching, racist murders and police brutality.
You see some us believe that we have never had any real acknowledgement, apology or reparations for slavery that such things could happen again
Deaths in police custody represents the critical fault line in the relations between police and black communities. The fact is these controversial deaths have increased in recent years in London rising from four deaths in 2008 to sixteen in 2012, according to figures published by the Metropolitan Police.
This palpable fear and anger is not well understood by some white people who don’t understand the cultural symbolism of such events. The very people who are charged with protecting our communities become feared as a violent oppressive force of occupation.
Institutional racism has become rampant and endemic as a result of a changes in the political environment. Since the Coalition and Government came to power the restraining influence of a series of monitoring policy frameworks and the political priority accorded to race equality has been swept away and as a result the police have returned to their natural cultural default setting of open hostility to black people.
The Home Secretary, the Mayor Boris Johnson and Commissioner Hogan Howe must stop denying the reality of institutional racism that leads to so many black people being criminalised and disproportionately abused, attacked and beaten by police officers steeped in a culture of racism. The elite armed response unit SO19 is no different in this regard to Police Constables who routinely discriminate against black people on a daily basis as evidenced by stop and search figures and disproportionate charging rates for black and white first time offenders.
I believe that too many Police officers see black people differently to whites and racial bias leads them to assume a threat where non exits. We are routinely considered to be criminals, psychotics, super bad bordering on evil.
This racial bias of specialist firearms officers leads to a false perception of increased threat, which in turn leads to the use of overwhelming force being used by frightened police officers.
That’s why black people suffer more violent rates of arrests, are more likely to be tasered by the police and sometimes face overwhelming and deadly force.
In a multicultural city like London a majority white police service should routinely test officers for levels of racial bias and specifically assess whether racist attitudes or unconscious bias leads to perceptions of increased threat when the subject is black.
Politicians of all parties must now accept or be forced to confront the real and growing crisis of confidence that exists between black communities and the Metropolitan Police.
The Association of Chief Police Officer’s and the Home Secretary must also accept that there is an urgent need to restore the confidence of black communities in British policing or we can expect further disturbance in the future.
No dialogue aimed at improving trust and confidence and building community police partnerships can be effective, or have any credibility if the reality of institutionalised racism is not accepted by Government and the Mayor Boris Johnson. That should be our key starting point for any discussions. Such is the depth of the crisis and the level of political resistance to reinstating institutional racism as a key priority that nothing short of a national boycott on working with the police stands a chance of changing things for the better. A 12 month boycott on all but essential discussion and an all-out national boycott on black police recruitment will bring all parties to the negotiating table. Anything else is simply window dressing and waiting for the next crisis. It’s time to take a stand.
Unfortunately both police and politicians deny the existence of endemic institutional racism and until the political discomfort and pain of holding that position becomes so great as to become intolerable, then they will not change their ideological Tory view that racism is nothing more than ‘politically correctness gone mad’ or plain old ‘Marxist lunacy’
That political blind spot cost the country hundreds of millions of pounds as a consequence of the disturbances of 201, all of which could have been avoided if the lessons learned after the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence were applied. Instead they were swept away by Tories and senior police officers whose political antagonism to anti-racism became so engrained that some would physically wretch at the mention of the very words ‘anti-racism’ or ‘multiculturalism’.
Government and the Mayor need to reprioritise the issue of racism in policing as an urgent issue if we are to avoid a further descent into deep seated animosity and a Northern Ireland type policing scenario. I can see, in a few years’ time, if this issue is not urgently addressed quickly how Police could find themselves being actively targeted as the ‘enemy’ and subject to violent and deadly retribution. It’s simply not a road we can afford to go down. We’re not there yet but we’re perilously close if someone does not wake up and smell the coffee.
Challenges don’t exist for the Police and politicians alone. The Independent Police Complaints Commission must now begin the process of restoring its reputation after it became clear that they had colluded with the Metropolitan Police in putting out misinformation, in the immediate wake of the shooting, suggesting Mark had shot at police officers. This turned out to be a lie.
Whilst the jury perverse verdict leaves everybody angry and confused, the reality is, that real world public perception, particularly within black communities is that the ‘police executed Mark Duggan’.
My community is seething with resentment and in danger of exploding with anger at the ongoing continued mass criminalisation, harassment and violence they receive at the hand of the police.
Racial profiling, stop and search, racist police officers and a criminal justice system that reeks of institutional racism and injustice provide the fuel for this profound discontentment.
It’s time we returned to the anti-racist battlefield to secure the future for our children.
We at Colourful Radio believe that this is an extremely important issue for our communities and as such I would like to invite you listen and join in my live breakfast show on Friday 10th January between 7 and 10 am.
As you know these issue rarely get the proper coverage from mainstream news outlets and in response to that we have decided that our entire programme will be dedicated to this important issue. We need you support to make sure the programme is a resounding success.
So this week on my show we will be focusing exclusively on deaths in custody, the implications of the Mark Duggan inquest verdict for the entirety of the programme.
I will be joined in the studio by my co presenter Dr X and by Matilda Macattram of Black Mental Health UK, Samanath Rigg sister of Sean Rigg Janet Hills Chair of Met Black police Association, Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Peter Herbert Chair of Society of Black lawyers .Deborah Coles from Inquest , Assistant Commissioner Rowley of the Met Police and many many more.
Stop Press: The Mark Duggan family have called for a peaceful mass demonstration Saturday 11th Jan 2pm Tottenham Police Station.