The Independent Police Complaints Commission is under attack after two of the three members of the Community Reference Group handling the shooting of Mark Duggan have resigned, Stafford Scott said “its investigation is flawed and in all probability tainted – so much so that we can never have faith in its final report.”
The death of Mark Duggan and how it was dealt with by the police is widely agreed to have been the spark that ignited the August riots. This new attack by Scott in a Guardian column drags confidence in police complaints to an all time low, further ties the widespread damage to the country to the Met and the IPCC and raises new questions about the Mark Duggan case.
On Thursday 4th of August Mark Duggan was being followed by the Met police gun crime unit as they had received intelligence that he would try and acquire a firearm. He did so and the police claim to have video evidence of this. As Duggan got onto Ferry Lane in Tottenham in a taxi Police decided to pull the car over and arrest him with the support of the CO19 firearm specialist unit. During the arrest two shots were fired by a single police officer, Duggan was hit on the bicep and in the chest, and pronounced dead at the scene at 6:41pm . A weapon was retrieved from the crime scene afterwards. These are the barest facts of the case, but there are several angles that have been disputed by various players in the story.
The largest blunder by the IPCC were the conflicting reports of the shots fired at the scene of the killing, one of the major reasons Stafford Scott and John Noblemunn of the Community Reference Group resigned. The Mirror, Evening Standard and Independent all quoted an IPCC source saying that Duggan shot at police first and then they returned fire. The official statement released 4 hours after the shooting made no comments on shots fired at the police.
The confusion stems from a bullet that was lodged in one of the police officer’s radios. The officer was hospitalised and released later that night, but later investigation found that the bullet was one of the two fired by police marksmen that might have ricocheted. In the first few hours after the killing this was misrepresented as an attack on the police.
What happened to the gun Duggan had bought that day is also unclear. The Sunday Times reported that three separate sources had informed them that the weapon was contained in a shoe-box inside the taxi that Duggan was travelling in. The Guardian reports that the gun was found 10-14 feet away from the body behind a low fence. Prints on the gun cannot be recovered as it was inside a sock to prevent exactly that. No-one is sure whether Duggan attempted to retrieve the gun before he was killed.
The most worrying aspect of the revelations from Scott are that he and the other Community Reference Group members were told by the IPCC commissioner that three officers had given statements that they had seen a Sergeant throwing away the gun to where it was found some distance from the body, as in the Guardian report. When the Group members tried to follow this up and find the officers who had seen it, they were told “there was no evidence to support the allegation [and] that this statement was in fact never given.”
Scott also found out, two months after the killing, by talking to members of the community that the taxi that Duggan was in seconds before he was shot was moved from the crime scene. When he raised the issue with the commissioner she confessed not to know anything about it and that the taxi had been returned to the owner as it didn’t contain any evidence, a point later found to be untrue. Weeks later it came out that the IPCC investigators had sanctioned the removal of the vehicle before they had even seen it.
There have been several obvious errors made in the investigation of Mark Duggan’s case. The release of erroneous information about the “shootout” between Duggan and police is more likely an honest mistake under pressure from the media to provide a story, quickly, and the jump to the conclusion that the bullet that hit an officer’s radio was from Mark’s gun. However it does seem strange that none of the officers questioned by the notably unnamed IPCC spokesman when they arrived at the scene mentioned that police fired the first shot.
Regardless of the many stories circulating about Mark’s involvement with gangs, many of his friends and relatives have said "He's not stupid to shoot at the police, that's ridiculous." Mark texted his fiancee only minutes before he was killed saying “The Feds are following me” he knew he was going to be arrested and was very unlikely to have wanted to make any sudden moves, we do not yet know what caused the police to shoot him dead with a shot to the chest.
The police guidelines state: "Whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall – exercise restraint ... act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved, minimise damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life." Whether they will be found to have been breached we will find out in coming months.
With the spreading of misinformation, allegations of tampering with evidence and falsifying statements many will jump to the conclusion of a police cover-up. Similar issues have been seen in the investigation of the unprovoked attack on Ian Tomlinson, of Charles de Menezes who was shot 7 times in the head and was misreported as jumping the barriers into Stockwell Station, the anti-terror raids in April 2009 which led to no charges, and the 2006 Forest gate raids where an unnamed “whitehall spokesman” said that he was adamant it was not the police but a brother of the suspect that shot him.
None of these people were guilty of a crime, but no members of the police force have been held accountable to their death or damage to their lives. It may be worth noting that in 42 years and over 1000 cases of death in custody the IPCC and it’s predecessor the Police Complaints Authority have not prosecuted a single police officer.
The Independent Police Complaints Comission was set up 7 years ago to try and promote honesty and transparency in police complaints and better engage with the community, now it seems the community are rejecting it. It is a toothless watchdog, its 121 investigators handle 164 cases a year and oversee many others, over 30% of their investigators are not independent but recruited from within the police force and many offenders charged can simply resign and avoid punishment. It’s time we put this dog down and got a new one don’t you think?
And a little extra reading:
Photo by Flickr user andronicusmax.