Police watch

• IPCC apologises to family of Mark Duggan

On 29 February 2012 both the Metropolitan Police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) were forced to apologise to the family of Mark Duggan, who was shot dead in Tottenham, north London, on 4 August 2011, sparking nationwide uprisings. The police had falsely claimed that Mark’s parents had been properly informed about their son’s death, when in fact they had only found out definitively that he was dead from TV reports the next day. The IPCC had already been forced to back down and admit to ‘making a mistake’ in the immediate aftermath of the police killing when it falsely claimed that there had been a shoot-out. It has since been accepted that Mark did not shoot at the police and was not carrying a gun.

Almost everything the IPCC has done in relation to the shooting of Mark Duggan has served to increase its reputation for being at best ineffective at investigating complaints about the police, and at worst complicit in covering up for police malpractice and crime.

• Trigger-happy cops

On 19 February Met Police officers first tasered and then fired at a Ghanaian man in Forest Hill, south London, hitting him in the stomach, leg and hand. The man, who it is reported was carrying a knife when shot, has been named only as George, was subsequently arrested in hospital and charged with the attempted murder of three police officers.

On 3 March 2012 in a pre-planned execution, Greater Manchester Police shot dead Anthony Grainger as he sat at the wheel of a car in Culcheth in Cheshire. He was unarmed and there were no weapons in the car. News reports say that the police also used CS gas and were wearing gas masks.

• Police snub Tottenham community

In February 2012, a meeting at Haringey Town Hall to discuss the findings of a community-led initiative into rebuilding the area and improving relations with police was attended by around 300 people, including residents, youth workers, charities, school children, local traders, politicians, media, and representatives from Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. Everyone, in fact, but the police who snubbed the community: Tottenham Borough Commander Sandra Looby (who went on holiday two days after Mark Duggan was shot) failed to attend the meeting ‘for operational reasons’ and did not send anyone to replace her.

• Pay-outs for police brutality

Whilst struggling against cuts in legal aid brought in both by the Labour government and the current Coalition, a small number of dedicated solicitors continue to assist the families of police murder victims to seek answers at inquests and surviving victims of police brutality to sue for compensation.

On 14 March the High Court found that Metropolitan Police officers subjected a 16-year-old boy with severe autism, learning disabilities and epilepsy to assault and battery, unlawful disability discrimination, false imprisonment and multiple breaches of the Human Rights Act by forcing him into handcuffs and leg restraints during a school swimming trip in September 2008. The boy, who has the mental age of a five-year-old, became fixated with the water and was reluctant to leave the pool. Against the wishes of his trained carer, the pool staff called the police, although there was no suggestion that he had committed any wrongdoing. Police officers arrived and grabbed him, causing him to jump away from them into the water, from where they then removed him using high-level force, shouted orders at him and put him in a caged van, soaking wet, on a cold day. The court awarded the boy and his family £28,250 in damages plus interest and costs. Disgracefully, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has refused to apologise and is planning to appeal.

On 19 March a settlement was reached for an undisclosed sum of compensation in a case brought by Simona Bonoma, who was harassed by police community support officers for the alleged crime of ‘filming buildings’, then pushed to the ground, handcuffed and arrested by Metropolitan Police officers, who then issued her with a fixed penalty notice for causing ‘harassment, alarm and distress’.

• Institutional police racism

In January it was announced that the investigation into the racist murder of Surjit Chhokar in Edinburgh in November 1998 is to be re-opened. This follows the dropping of the double jeopardy rule whereby defendants cannot be tried for the same crime twice. The original trials in 2000 for the brutal stabbing of the Sikh waiter saw two men walk free, having blamed one other for the murder. The crime took place within two weeks of the beginning of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. Two inquiries also followed the Chhokar murder trials in which, as in the case of Stephen Lawrence, the police and prosecution service were found to be institutionally racist. No interpreters were provided for the Chhokar family during their first meetings with police; trial dates were not passed on and they found themselves in rooms before the trial with the accused and their families. The Chhokar Family Justice Campaign fought on, despite the Labour Party refusing to support a motion in the Scottish parliament calling for an open public enquiry.

Nicki Jameson and Michael MacGregor

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012

 

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