Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"It was a mistake"

This happened yesterday in Britain:

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has admitted it "was a mistake" to announce that Mark Duggan, who was shot dead by police officers last August sparking widespread rioting, had been involved in a firefight with officers.

At a pre-inquest hearing at North London Coroner's Court yesterday, IPCC investigator Colin Sparrow was forced to admit that none of Mr Duggan's DNA, blood or fingerprints had been found on a non-police issue gun recovered from the scene in Tottenham, north London, where he was shot and killed on 4 August.

In a courtroom packed with Mr Duggan's friends and family, including his fiancée and mother of his children Semone Wilson, Mr Mansfield asked Mr Sparrow: "My first question is, do you appreciate the anxiety the family have about the investigation?

"And are you aware at least that one of the reasons is the misinformation that was broadcast at the beginning, close to the time Mark Duggan met his death? Misinformation suggesting some form of shoot-out, and do you accept that was a serious mistake?"

Mr Sparrow replied: "It wasn't accurate."

Mr Mansfield added: "It was a mistake, wasn't it?"

Mr Sparrow then said: "It was a mistake."

And

The hearing was told that a gun initially linked to Mr Duggan was actually found 14ft from the crime scene in Ferry Lane, on the other side of a fence.

Mr Mansfield said witnesses had claimed to see a police officer throw the weapon there. He asked Mr Sparrow: "How on earth did the gun get over a fence 14ft away? Was it thrown there by a police officer?"

Mr Sparrow said: "That's a suggestion, yes."
As the Independent notes,
It was anger of the police's lack of contact with Mr Duggan's family that prompted 120 people to march from Tottenham's Broadwater Farm estate to the local police station, which became the starting point for the outbreak of social unrest that spread across London and then to other parts of the country over the next three nights.
As they don't note (at least not in this article), Duggan was relentlessly portrayed as having shot a police officer before he was shot. While it may be true that he had a gun with him, that's now uncertain, and there is absolutely no evidence that, if he did have it, he ever even took it out of the box he was allegedly carrying it in. The Metropolitan Police Federation have asserted that the officer who shot Duggan had "an honest-held belief that he was in imminent danger of him and his colleagues being shot".

Honest belief of imminent danger or not, what now seems apparent is that the police closed ranks and attempted to cover up what happened. That three days of rioting were sparked by this occurrence is incidental - though not to the people now in jail nor the businesses and their owners who suffered.

The larger point to this - and it's hardly confined to this instance or even to Britain, oh my no - is that the police are no longer on the side of the public. As I noted a couple of weeks ago, the police are morphing into an occupying force, and that's a disturbing trend. What this example illustrates is that people are beginning to disbelieve anything told them by the police, or by those who purport to control or investigate them.

And that's an even more disturbing trend - one that has grave potential for civil society.

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