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article imageOp-Ed: Time to end the privilege money can't buy

By Alexander Baron     Jan 11, 2014 in Crime
London - A policeman's lot may not be a happy one, but police officers everywhere enjoy privileges no one else does. It is time this scandal was ended.
The inquest on Mark Duggan has now finished. After opening on September 17 last year it concluded with the majority jury verdict on January 8 and and the inevitable response outside the Royal Courts of Justice to the finding of lawful killing.
The comrades at Socialist Worker have put together a schedule relating to the evidence heard at the inquest. Although anything these people say about politics is to be accepted with extreme reserve if not outright suspicion, they don't appear to have gilded the lily this time. The same cannot be said for the police.
If you are not au fait with this complex case, check out some of the background to it, including the riots that followed, the conspiracy of silence as the Metropolitan Police closed ranks to enforce what their American brethren call "The Code" and the conviction of Kevin Hutchinson-Foster, the man who supplied the firearm Duggan wasn't holding when he was gunned down by a marksman who remains anonymous to this day. This man told the inquest he felt he'd had no option but to defend himself by shooting Duggan. Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?
Regardless of the inquest verdict, few neutral observers will be satisfied with the police version of events. Whether or not one or some of them planted the gun that was found at the scene clearly well out of the dead man's reach, there remain other questions: was a so-called hard stop really necessary? Unless they had intelligence that Duggan was going to use the weapon that was not in his possession in a drive-by shooting (a rare phenomenon in the UK), could and indeed should they not have waited until he emerged from the taxi and then made a regular arrest?
Again, in view of the way the police arrested the Woolwich beheading suspects, why was it considered necessary even to shoot?
Sickos Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale had hacked off a man's head in the street, one of them gave an impromptu interview with bloody hands, then they rushed towards the police clearly armed, and for all the officers on the scene knew, wearing suicide vests. These men — who were not wearing body armour — would have been entitled to shoot to kill, but instead keeping cool heads they took down their would-be assailants in a calm, professional manner. The contrast with the Duggan killing is stark.
So what did happen? It is possible of course that Mark Duggan was targeted for execution, but it is far more likely that the police bungled badly. The moral of this story, as ever, is if a police officer shoots an unarmed man in cold blood, he will face no meaningful consequences.
Before we leave this particular case we should say a few words about the victim. Two pictures have been painted of Mark Duggan. One is of a gangsta, a claim supported by photographs of him posing as such; the implication of that and more is that he got what he deserved. The other is that of a man who may have had a bit of trouble with the law in his youth, but was basically a decent citizen who has been gratuitously dissed by both the police and certain elements of the media. These two images are not necessarily mutually exclusive; serial rapist Antoni Imiela was a family man, and mass murderer John Gacy was a community activist who less than a year before his arrest was photographed shaking hands with the First Lady of the United States. There have though been stories about Mark Duggan that have clearly been planted in the mainstream media by the faithful lapdogs of the Metropolitan Police PR machine, and we should be wary of anything they say.
From an act of manslaughter or worse we turn to what is on the face of it is a trivial matter: plebgate.
Although this has yet to run its course, there can be no doubt in the public mind that Andrew Mitchell has already been totally vindicated. Yesterday, Keith Wallace, a serving police officer, admitted in court that he had fabricated his "evidence" out of the whole cloth. He is now facing a gaol sentence, and should be dealt with severely.
This was and is far from a trivial matter, indeed in some ways it is more serious than the shooting of Mark Duggan. The reason for this is the police investigate allegations of crime, gather evidence, and present this evidence to the courts. They do this on public trust, we have to trust them whether we like it or not, because who else is there? If the police cannot be trusted over something as apparently trivial as this, if they can fabricate evidence to bring down a Cabinet Minister, how can we trust them in a burglary case, a rape case, or one of serial murder?
Andrew Mitchell is at the centre of a political storm as a result of a heated exchange when police o...
Andrew Mitchell is at the centre of a political storm as a result of a heated exchange when police officers told him he could not ride his bicycle through the Downing Street gate.
This innate dishonesty of police officers has long been recognised. Read the following quote and ask yourself does it or does it not make sense?
"At present, confessions made to Police officers can be proved in Court. In our opinion this is open to two grave objections. The Police are tempted to allege a confession even when none has been made, and they are encouraged to rely on confessions and to neglect to obtain all the evidence which a more searching enquiry would have yielded…We recommend that in the new Criminal Procedure Code, which is so badly needed, provision should be made for the recording of confessions by Magistrates who should be required to certify that the confession was, to the best of their belief, voluntarily made."
Would you believe those words were written as long ago as 1931? Yet until last year, the overwhelming majority of British politicians believed the police were honest, decent and trustworthy. One of these politicians was Andrew Mitchell, but not anymore.
The usual suspects have tried to make a race issue out of the Mark Duggan case, which it was not and is not. Many of those killed and in effect murdered by the British police have been white, including (the naked) James Ashley; injustice is truly colour blind. Having said that, the point has been made, if they can get away with this sort of thing against a Cabinet Minister — and they nearly did — what hope for those at the bottom of the food chain? Which in the eyes of the police is the rest of us.
Just as this is not a race issue, neither is it one solely for the Metropolitan Police, or the British police, but for police forces the world over. We are fortunate in the UK because police officers who are "bent for self" are largely not tolerated. It may be more difficult to make a charge stick against a copper than against one of us mere mortals, but if a police officer comes to your house to investigate a crime, and steals something, he will be brought to book. If a police officer uses his position to sexually abuse a woman in his custody, he will be brought to book and dealt with severely, as Sergeant Banfield found out.
When though a police officer is "bent for the job", even if that involves nothing more than looking the other way, things were and still are different.
It is time to end forever the privilege money can't but, in the UK at least. This will take root and branch reform, because it is not simply the police who must be held to account but their collaborators in the legal establishment. The most outrageous such case in the UK dates to the 1970s when Stefan Kiszko was fitted up for a murder the authorities knew he not only hadn't but couldn't have committed, but there are plenty of other smaller ones in the UK, and countless not so small throughout the world.
Politicians like Andrew Mitchell are accountable to us, and ultimately the police should be too, through Parliament. The fact that one of their own has been the victim of police perfidy appears to have woken them from their slumber. Let us hope they don't simply express outrage for the next year or two and then go back to sleep. Eternal vigilance is the price of the rule of law for all.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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