Police critics

This report about the IPCC investigation of Mark Duggan by CO19 stimulates 2 questions in my mind.

  1. In how far have the whole riots been misinterpreted by politicians and media alike
  2. how can communities improve relations with the police so that such incidences do not repeat.

Being heavily involved in the Neighbourhood Watch scenario and being a trained Crime Fighter, as the Gordon Brown administration called it, I am quite keen to find a way to resolve people’s anxiety of the police actions that led to the killing/death of Mark Duggan.

It must be of concern to all people of any given country if people are shot by armed police when it is not even absolutely clear whether they even had a gun and such trigger-happy incidents must be avoided. We had a man with a table leg shot at one time.

But it is getting into a very uneasy pattern that more and more often ‘harmless’ people get shot by the armed police officer who can always claim threat to their own lives. It is now up to the police investigation how strong that threat really had been. In this report Mark Duggan’s brother explains that a gun that was supposed to have been found on Mark Duggan did  not have 1 fingerprint of him on it. It is very disturbing that the police lied to the press and created the myth to the public that Mark Duggan shot at them first.

I think that it is in this instance not important whether Mark Duggan was a criminal or a saint, because that does not make any difference to the fact that he apparently has been shot without good reason.

I went to a special training event with CO19 who talked about their strategies and that they act on information from the public. Yet the trigger-happy attitude does create justifiable concerns about the way that unit works. I think it is up to groups like Neighbourhood Watches to have a sobering effect on police because we are the link between the police and the community. But as we are from the community we have a duty to the community at large and at most can see ourselves as critical friend to the police. We of course encourage better relationships with the police but the Duggan shooting makes this much more difficult than what it was before.

At the riots the police was very laid back and allowed the rioters to charge and loot and cause damage but when it comes to the specialist CO19 unit we see a different face of the police force, namely the brutal offensive officers with guns who shoot to kill. Why is it that we get such discrepancy in the same service on service attitude. It seems to be the 2 groups of officers have somewhere lost touch and they live in totally different worlds, which is not desirable.

We must try and balance the approach to problems across the force to make good on the bad impression the police made on several occasions. It is not reassuring that the police loses their rag when we are in special circumstances and they feel they can let the pig out and shoot a few people if the problems are desperate enough like it was using the recent terrorist bombings when an electrician was shot several times in an underground carriage because he ran in panic.

I think a better dialogue between the police and the public is the answer and legal frameworks to avoid such situations arising again. It was a very disturbing reaction to the riots that followed the Duggan shooting that almost 3000 people got arrested and some imprisoned for ridiculous amounts of time for walking past a damaged shop and taking a bottle of water. In Wandsworth the council wants to evict the parent of a rioting teenager. I think this drive for more punishment and less reflection on the service itself, reflection  on how this country is governed and how problems can be solved amicably is a definite blemish on this country’s excellent record on fairness and stability.

It’s like the government wants to break the spirit of the people and drive any little bit of resentment that might be left in some people out of them. But that has been tried over the centuries and it never worked, the opposite happened, it deepened the resentment.

Now the government makes millions available in grants to new civil initiatives that help to protect our society from crime, anti-social behaviour and support vulnerable residents. But unless the government can actually calm the obvious disagreements over who is actually responsible over what the police does and some good agreement can be achieved on guidelines for the service, all the money in the world cannot help.

I think there needs to be a clear message to all police officers that they cannot let their fingers slip on the trigger and get a away with excuses any longer. We need a good system of communication between police and community and a national concept that allows effective communication between the police and the community but I cannot see much of that happening as the current wave of money-grants, which are allowed only if local chiefs support an individualistic plan that suits a locality. That of course might lead to a deepening of local problems rather than a solution.

Scotland has opted to amalgamate all its forces into one and the UK should take this as a good example. I cannot see how more local independence in small communities like individual boroughs can help authorities when everything else is regionally dependent and on the national government.

The whole government and justice approach to the riots just reeks of insecurity,that the government just doesn’t know what to do and just uses the punishment approach because they have no better ideas at the moment. This creates martyrs and resentment. Of course people have to be made aware that it is wrong to burn down buildings with people in it and steel and destroy but only the worst ring-leaders that endangered life should get the harsh sentences and not the doctor’s daughter that walked into a scene out of Armageddon.

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