On Wednesday January 8th 2014, the jury at the High Court in London found the Police officer who shot Mark Duggan dead in the streets of Tottenham in 2011, not guilty of unlawful killing. How, some asked, could the Police shoot an unarmed man and it be considered ‘lawful’? Some commentators described the verdict as ‘strange’ or ‘surprising’, but I for one was not surprised. This is business as usual for the Criminal Justice system in Britain. The Police are NEVER convicted of unlawful killing, unless there is video evidence which can prove it – and even then, it’s an uphill struggle.
The presumption of the ‘Great-British-Public’ and the ‘Main-Stream-Media’ is that if the Police use force, then that force must be warranted. If the Police use deadly force, then they must have considered themselves or the public to be in mortal danger. In this case the deadly force was justified because the Police THOUGHT that Duggan had a gun and was aiming to shoot. The fact that he didn’t is just a tragic mistake.
The officers had been surveilling Duggan for some time, and knew that he had obtained a gun earlier that day. So naturally, the Police argued, when they performed a ‘hard stop’ on the minicab he was travelling in, Duggan was preparing himself for an armed shoot-out with the officers who had surrounded him, and so they reacted accordingly. The jury believed that version of events. A version by officers so confident of their story, that they refused to be interviewed by the IPCC and instead gave written statements after colluding.
Despite the fact that other eye-witness say that when Duggan left the cab, his hands were up and he was in fact holding a phone. Despite the fact that the gun in question was found some 20 feet away from the body, on a grass verge, on the other side of 6 foot fence. Despite the facts that Duggan’s fingerprints were not even on it.
Sadly the jury were unwilling to believe that the Police could have shot an unarmed man, and then planted the gun there themselves to cover their tracks. Because the Police are all honest law-abiding citizens and Duggan was a convicted criminal. A notorious international gangster no less. Perception is everything.
But this Duggan shooting is no isolated incident. To put this case in perspective, let’s have a quick review of the Police’s treatment of Black Britons over the last 30 years.
In 1985 Cherry Groce was hit by a police bullet when the police conducted an armed search of her home seeking her son (an injury which left her paralysed from the waist down). The police officer who shot Mrs. Groce, Inspector Douglas Lovelock, was prosecuted but eventually acquitted of malicious wounding.
In 1993 Joy Gardner fell into a coma after struggling with Police when they and an immigration officer arrived at her home to serve a deportation notice. She later died in hospital. The three police officers involved were found not guilty of manslaughter in 1995.
A similar fate befell Roger Sylvester when he was taken into Police custody in 1999. He sustained numerous injuries in his struggle with the officers and remained in a coma at the Whittington hospital for seven days until his life support machine was switched off.
Or there’s Frank Ogburo who was arrested in 2006. Eye-witnesses saw a struggle between the officers and Frank which resulted in him being sprayed with CS Gas, being handcuffed and brought to the floor. CCTV footage captured several more officers joining in the restraint and striking Frank to subdue him. His death according to the jury at the inquest was as a “consequence of restraint”.
More recently in 2011 we are meant to believe that David Emmanuel, aka reggae artist Smiley Culture stabbed himself in the chest whilst Police conducted a search of his house. An investigation into the Police operation conducted by the IPCC found no evidence that a crime had been committed, and no misconduct by Police officers.
I bring up these historical cases to illustrate that the Police have form when it comes to killing Black people and getting away with it. So no, I was not surprised at the Duggan verdict. I gave up being surprised after the four police officers involved in the beating of Black motorist Rodney King were found not guilty, despite being caught on camera.
But that was the past. As we all know, since Obama became President, things are so much better. We now live in a post-racial society where racism is illegal. But even if that were true, guess what? Sometimes the Police fit up white people too! Look at the behaviour of Police in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster. The Hillsborough Independent Panel in 2012 found that police had deliberately altered more than 160 witness statements in an attempt to blame Liverpool fans for the fatal crush, and deflect blame from their own inadequate crowd control.
It has long been known by those in the Black community that the Police sometimes lie in court and fabricate evidence in order to get a conviction. This is a fact that the majority of the UK’s citizens (outside of Liverpool) were unwilling to believe. That was until in the ‘Plebgate’ affair in 2012. If the Police can lie to discredit a respected member of the Government, how much more likely that they will do so to cover their own crimes and discredit a convicted criminal? And most importantly, how much more likely that a jury will believe them?
I don’t know exactly what happened on that day in Tottenham 2011. I wasn’t there. I don’t know what was in that Police officer’s mind as he pulled the trigger – twice. But I know my history. I know that when Black people die in Police custody nobody is ever held accountable. I also know that sometimes the Police kill people unlawfully and lie and collude and fabricate evidence to cover it up. I know that sometimes innocent people go jail because of a forced Police confession (Cardiff Three); and sometimes guilty people get away scot-free because the Police aren’t motivated to pursue them thoroughly. (Stephen Lawrence)
And what I also know, is that it’s as hard for a Black man to get justice in this country today, as it’s always been.
1. Background to the police shooting of Mark Duggan can be found here
2. There have been 10 unlawful killing verdicts at inquests or inquiries involving deaths in police custody or following police contact since 1990. There have been eight attempts to prosecute police following a death in police custody or following contact in the same period, none of which have been successful.