The Met need to supply some answers

Those reports that the bullet in the police radio was a police bullet are starting to firm up a bit, and it’s not looking all that good for the Met.

Britain’s police watchdog said on Tuesday it found no evidence that Mark Duggan, whose death at the hands of police last week was the catalyst for unprecedented riots in London, had fired a gun at officers.
“At this stage there is no evidence that the handgun found at the scene was fired during the incident,” said the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in an update on last Thursday’s fatal shooting in Tottenham, north London.
[…]
he IPCC said that two shots were fired by one firearms officer, and a post-mortem examination revealed that Duggan received a gunshot wound to the chest, which killed him, as well as a second gunshot wound to his right bicep.
A bullet was found lodged in one of the police officers’ radios and a non-police issue handgun was also recovered from the scene.
Ballistics tests have now revealed that the bullet lodged in the radio was police issue, “and, whilst it is still subject to DNA analysis, it is consistent with having been fired from” a Heckler and Koch MP5 gun used by the police.

Does it mean the police are guilty of starting this whole thing by virtually executing Duggan? Not necessarily. I’m going to assume, fairly I think, that the police expected Duggan to be armed. The reason I think it’s a fair assumption is that you don’t send a bunch of cops tooled up with MP5 semi-autos to arrest someone you expect to be unarmed, so it’s reasonable to think that the police thought that there was at least a chance and maybe even a strong possibility that Duggan would have a gun. And as it turns out they were right because he was armed, reportedly with a Bruni blank firing pistol that had been converted to fire live ammunition.* Others may claim that the police planted it but that seems pretty unlikely – it’s not the kind of thing police just happen to have handy and they’d have only got it in advance if the whole plan was to kill Duggan rather than arrest him, which is simply beyond even tinfoil hattery. This isn’t a Dr David Kelly type here, just a guy who’s supposed to have dealt drugs in a particular part of London. I’m not saying nobody wanted him dead but was he important enough for a blatantly illegal state operation to kill him? Of course not, and that being so there’s no plausible reason for the police to have brought along a criminal’s weapon to plant on the body.

In any case that’s by the by. The police who were sent to arrest Duggan were clearly expecting him to be armed and dangerous, and that’s the important thing. In that situation Duggan need only have put his hand out of sight abruptly for one of the cops to think he was going for a gun, and if you were the cop and that thought was in your head would you wait or shoot? Are you still thinking? Well, you could be dead now. So with that in mind, and again this is an assumption on my part, police are probably trained to shoot if – if – something like that happens when confronting a suspect who is believed to be armed.

Now I stressed ‘if’ back there because as yet we don’t know what happened. Maybe Duggan did something to make the cop think he was going for a gun, maybe he even was going for his gun, and maybe there was a cop who for some reason – maybe a bad reason, maybe a perfectly understandable one that could happen to anybody – thought he saw something that wasn’t what he thought he saw, and that made him pull the trigger. We just don’t know at this stage, and I’m not going to second guess either the police or the late Mark Duggan. Everyone is still innocent until proven guilty. Yes, everyone, even alleged drug dealers and even the police when they’ve just shot someone dead. Again, we must wait and see.

That said they’re not off the hook either. Inevitably the police have some explaining to do whenever they shoot someone dead, and since that’s the kind of thing inquests are and since the one into Duggan’s death has only just opened yesterday I’m happy to wait and see what comes out of that. But top of the list are a couple of questions the police could answer right away. First, and most important, they could tell us exactly how it was that the initial media reports carried a story of a firefight in which one lucky plod took a round in the radio when we now know that Duggan’s gun was not fired. And secondly, once that incorrect story did emerge how much effort did the Met put into correcting the media and getting the point across that it was early days and much was still unknown.

The reason I ask is because right now it makes the Met look like they lied. It makes people think of the Jean-Charles de Menezes shooting and the reports that he jumped the barriers at Stockwell Tube station and that the police challenged him, neither of which actually happened. And while at this point I always trot out Hanlon’s Razor and my preference for believing cock up and incompetence over conspiracy and intrigue, in this kind of situation there’s not actually much difference in he practical outcome. The rioters won’t care whether the police actually set out to deceive, which would have been a phenomenally stupid decision if they did, or simply failed to correct the media’s initial stories with the important qualification: “We’re not sure yet.” All they will know is that Duggan was supposed to have shot at the police who killed him and now it turns out that he never got a shot off at all.

And that’s probably not good news for Londoners. If Duggan’s death was enough to go heaving bricks and burning buildings for** then any impression of dishonesty on the part of the Metropolitan police, even if it turns out to have been a mistake beyond their control and that they’d released dozens of PRs correcting it, is only going to pour petrol on the flames.

* Have a look at the website. Convincing looking things, eh? If, and again I stress ‘if’, a cop caught sight of one of those in someone’s hand I could understand him shooting if it wasn’t dropped sharpish.
** It should go without saying that I don’t think even a wrongful police shooting – and we don’t yet know if this was one – justifies smashing up and stealing the property of innocent third parties.

28 comments for “The Met need to supply some answers

  1. dearieme
    August 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    I dunno, if a gangster draws a gun isn’t it a good idea to shoot the fucker before he gets a round away?

    • August 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm

      Yep. That’s what I was talking about when I said that they were expecting him to be armed (correctly as it happens) and that if the copper who shot him thought he was going for a gun he’s probably trained not to bugger about but just fire. That’s a question the Met need to answer to the inquest. I don’t think anyone expects the police to have to wait until one of them is actually shot before reacting, so if that’s what happened then fair enough.

      But right now they could explain why they let this firefight story hit the papers when it didn’t happen and, if it was the media stuffing things up an reporting early conjecture as established fact, what they did about getting the correct version of events out or at least a qualified “We honestly don’t know yet”.

      • August 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm

        Did they let the story go out? Or was it the IPCC themselves? There seems to be a lot of blamestorming over it, reading between the lines…

        • August 11, 2011 at 2:55 am

          I’d forgotten the involvement of the IPCC, but in some ways that makes the Met look even worse. Assuming the Met were honest at all points the timeline of events would go something like this:

          Met: We shot someone dead and during the incident one officer ended up avoiding injury because a bullet was stopped by his radio.
          Media: OMFG! There was this guy just had a gunfight with police, and he shot one in the radio and then they shot him dead. OMFG!
          Met, on the subject of what’s definitely known about shots fired: …..
          Media: OMFG! The guy they shot, his family and friends are having a march.
          Met, still on last subject: …..
          Media: OMFG! Riot!
          Met, still on last subject: …..
          Media: WTF? The guy the police shot, rumour going round that the bullet in the radio is a police bullet.
          Met, still not changed subject: …..
          IPCC: Er, yeah, actually it is a police bullet and they guy they shot didn’t even fire his gun.

          As I say it’s possible someone in the police was desperately trying to get an objective perspective into print only to be ignored by the media in favour of sensationalism, but unless they can point to a stack of PRs all of which were overlooked by the press it smacks of incredibly poor media management by the Met at best. At worst it looks like they were happy to let a story go out that wasn’t true because the reality wasn’t too flattering. Yes, the IPCC take over it quite fast but is the Met prevented from saying to the media that they’ve got something wrong or printed something which hasn’t yet been established as fact, or do they have to keep shtum and leave it to the IPCC to deal with the press? If so then perhaps some of my ire should be directed their way.

  2. Lord T
    August 10, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Just to stir things a bit it is not inconceivable in my mind that some Plod routinely carry a throw away just in case they shoot someone. They can then claim he was armed.

    In saying that I believe he was armed and that IF he did present a risk and it was justified. The issue is that few people would try for a shot under these circumstances, surrounded by MP5 wielding Plod, that I suspect he was not a threat. It is time plod recorded all these events on video that was released into the public domain immediately after a shooting. No delays.

    It seems to be the case that when anything happens now TPTB deny it and blame someone else then when they find out it is wrong they just keep quiet. Perhaps even manufacturing and/or destroying evidence. The are no longer trusted or respected. That needs to change and quickly. Let us face it. Personally would you trust known liars when they tell you something? Why should we treat Plod any different.

    As far as ‘even a wrongful police shooting – and we don’t yet know if this was one – justifies smashing up and stealing the property of innocent third parties’ It is sad but in their mind what else can they do? Rely on the Justice system they do not trust? What other recourse is there for them? They are doing the only thing they see that is available to them.

    There are a lot of good Plod left even in the Met but the management needs to go and the structure changed. Some Plod need to be sacked and processes changed. The politicians grip should be eased and the justice system needs revamping. Laws need changing as well and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

    • August 10, 2011 at 2:37 pm

      “It is time plod recorded all these events on video that was released into the public domain immediately after a shooting. No delays.”

      Can’t. The FBI officially deny the existence of snuff movies… 😈

    • August 11, 2011 at 3:14 am

      Just to stir things a bit it is not inconceivable in my mind that some Plod routinely carry a throw away just in case they shoot someone. They can then claim he was armed.

      Bit Hollywood, isn’t it? Where do they keep the plant? How do they ensure that they’re not seen planting it – not just by members of the public but by other plod who may not be as bent? That’s very important since you yourself say there are a lot of good plod still left in the Met. And isn’t it about a zillion times easier to just say, “Well, it looked like he was going for a weapon and because it was in a pocket how was I supposed to know it was his phone?”

      It is sad but in their mind what else can they do? Rely on the Justice system they do not trust? What other recourse is there for them? They are doing the only thing they see that is available to them.

      Oh please. Practically none of them would have known who Duggan was before it all kicked off and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the majority still have no clue. They’re not in it out of a perceived sense of injustice, they’re in it for all the nice things they can help themselves to without paying. Are they smashing up law courts, government offices, police stations etc, symbols and tools of the system? No, they’re smashing up places containing TVs, mobile phones, laptops, booze, tobacco, jewellery and, with a bit of luck, some cash that wasn’t put in the safe. And as I said, nothing justifies that, not even if the cops had shot Duggan in the face and yelled ‘Die, you bastard’ as they did so. The cops came from the Met, not Currys, Phones4U or Mr and Mrs Patel’s corner supermarket and tobacco counter.

      • Lord T
        August 11, 2011 at 11:41 am

        Bit Hollywood, isn’t it?
        Maybe it is in the movies but it does happen in real life as well. Putting your hand up for an innocent mistake doesn’t do you any good. Having a bit of hardware is a life saver.

        Oh please. Practically none of them would have known who Duggan was before it all kicked off and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the majority still have no clue.

        I agree totally. It is an excuse to go our and pick up a new TV and some new clothes. However, we didn’t do it when Jean Charles de Menenez got lead poisoning. The social situation has changed and people are frustrated. They have no recourse to that so they do this.

        Its the same for those when they have a bad day at work and go home to beat the wife and kids. It is a way to blow off steam.

        Of course there are some who see it as a way to simply get new trainers.

  3. David
    August 10, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Who cares. One more scumbag off OUR streets.

    • Lord T
      August 10, 2011 at 2:11 pm

      If only it had stopped there but it didn’t.

      Now hundreds are homeless, good people are dead and distrust of Plod is reinforced.

      None of that is good so I care.

      • August 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm

        If it wasn’t this incident, it’d have been another.

        • Lord T
          August 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm

          I agree. I still care though.

  4. Ripper
    August 10, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    I smell bullshit..

    “he IPCC said that two shots were fired by one firearms officer, and a post-mortem examination revealed that Duggan received a gunshot wound to the chest, which killed him, as well as a second gunshot wound to his right bicep.”

    Ok so we have 2 shots fired, and 2 corresponding bullets in Duggan’s body. So where did the 3rd bullet come from, the police issue one in the radio? Its already been said that Duggan’s gun was never fired anyway. That just leaves the theory of one incompetent plod firing at another.

    And sorry AE, I don’t buy the line about plod being faced with a split second decision to open fire. This guy was in a minicab, a very easy situation for the police to stop and isolate, without moving in until things were safe to do so even if it became a standoff situation lasting days. Like you said they knew he was armed, and he must have also been under surveillance too. How else would armed plod know he was in transit in a minicab? They had all the information they needed for a safe arrest.

    The bottom line here is, regardless of what Duggan had done, he was executed without trial.

    • August 11, 2011 at 2:15 am

      Ok so we have 2 shots fired, and 2 corresponding bullets in Duggan’s body. So where did the 3rd bullet come from, the police issue one in the radio?

      Yes, I was going to pick up on that too, but on re-reading I realised that actually there is no inconsistency. One bullet can make more than one bullet wound, and the IPCC just said two gunshot wounds on the body rather than two bullets found in it. If one round hit his bicep and missed the bone beneath I suppose it could have carried on out the other side and hit something or someone else. Hollow points are supposed to reduce the chances of that happening but I doubt they’re miracle workers. Hit a thin enough piece of flesh and I’m sure they will still penetrate, and where it ends up after that is hard to predict – especially if it’s somewhere with all sorts of surfaces for it to deflect off of.

      With that in mind two shots making two gunshot wounds and a ruined radio seems quite possible, though I’d guess that a bullet hitting an arm and going off who knows where counts as a miss for police shooters. For them it’s not just about hitting the target but also about making sure stray rounds do not endanger anyone else. Or at least, in my opinion as a recreational shooter, if it isn’t it bloody well should be.

      And sorry AE, I don’t buy the line about plod being faced with a split second decision to open fire. This guy was in a minicab, a very easy situation for the police to stop and isolate, without moving in until things were safe to do so even if it became a standoff situation lasting days.

      Yes, I’d considered that. In a car with the driver as instant hostage, just add firearm. Besides, what’s he doing with his hands below the level of the window? Do you know? Is he about to fire through the door? Sure, crazy thing to do but people do crazy things all the time. Did his hands go down rather than up when the police shouted (what’s been said about where the wounds were makes me think that his hands were probably not up)? Has he got the ending of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in his head? Do you know? ….. And if you’re the cop how long do you think you’ve been trained to think about it? Not very long at all, I reckon, which is why I will not second guess them at a point where the inquest probably hasn’t even begun calling witnesses.

      Nor will I second guess Mark Duggan. He’s only got a split second too. Did he hear the police shouting over the car noises? Did he recognise them as police right away or generic armed men (I don’t recall seeing any reports making it clear if they were uniformed or not) and think they were there to get him like his cousin who was murdered? We’ll never know that but let’s assume he did recognise that it was police, which I think is probably very likely, and that whatever else he was he wasn’t so suicidally stupid he’d try and shoot it out with several guys with an MP5 apiece. So did he perhaps reach for the gun not to use it but to give it a quick wipe and chuck it under the other seat in the hope of denying it was his? Or did his arms go down because the car braked suddenly? What would that look like to the cops?

      The bottom line here is, regardless of what Duggan had done, he was executed without trial.

      Sorry, no, I don’t buy that for an instant. Firstly he was shot in the chest, which may have been survivable with a bit of luck. Cf Jean-Charles de Menezes who they really really did want dead, albeit for the wrong reasons, and who got half a dozen rounds in the head. Aside from the horrific balls up that that was it’s a good indicator of what the Met will do whenever they feel they can’t take prisoners for whatever reason. One survivable nick and one chest wound is not in the same league. Secondly, and as I said in the post, Duggan isn’t important enough to kill. Does anyone imagine that there aren’t thousands more just like him around London alone? Mark Duggans are ten a penny and probably no shortage of people willing to fill the shoes of any that die – one more or one less, no real difference. So what does deliberately killing one achieve other than risking murder charges for those involved in the decision? Two fifths of bugger all, if not less. Whereas alive there’s the possibility of getting info about other criminals out of him.

      Could his death have been avoided? Probably, and I’m sure there will be questions about why it was decided to try to nick him in a vehicle rather than on foot somewhere so they could see his entire body and what he was doing. They might not have had any choice but again we don’t know at this point, so let’s wait and see. But even if it was avoidable that’s not the same as an execution without trial.

      • August 11, 2011 at 11:04 am

        “Did he recognise them as police right away..”

        He’s alleged to have texted the skank he impregnated several times…

        …sorry, I meant to type ‘the mother of his children’ there…

        …that ‘The Feds’ were following him. For the benefit of US readers, that’s the slang term given to English police by street rats like Duggan. We don’t have a FBI.

  5. August 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    “…Everyone is still innocent until proven guilty. Yes, everyone, even alleged drug dealers…”

    Want to bet this chap – despit the protestations of his nearest and dearest – turns out to have had quite the lengthy criminal record?

    • August 11, 2011 at 2:26 am

      The only thing I’ve read in relation to his record is that he’s been in prison on remand. What for wasn’t said and whether he was acquitted and released or was convicted but sentenced only to time served wasn’t said either. Apart from that there’s no suggestion that he’d ever done time, but of course he could have had a long list of minor offences and non-custodial sentences to his name.

      Even then he’s still innocent until proven guilty. I’ll hold to that principle ’til my dying breath because the day we ditch it, even for scumbags, we’re all fucked. Or as Sir Thomas More says in A Man for All Seasons:

      “And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast – man’s laws, not God’s. And if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it – do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”

      • August 11, 2011 at 11:08 am

        “Even then he’s still innocent until proven guilty.”

        Of the offence or suspected offence the police were tailing him for, sure.

        But it does point to just why the police were so cautious in being themselves armed and ready to rock and roll. De Menezes notwithstanding, they don’t do that for every arrest…

  6. August 10, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Whilst there are certainly answers required from the Met, I doubt there will be much sympathy going Mr Duggan’s way other than from his immediate family, professional handwringers, the far left and compo lawyers.
    The coroners verdict should be as with any incident where someone being arrested pulls a gun around armed officers.
    Suicide.

    • August 11, 2011 at 2:37 am

      Per the post, we do not yet know that Duggan pulled a gun around armed officers. It may well have looked like he was from the cops’ p.o.v and so one fired, when in fact he was doing something else. Hell, scratching his balls could have looked like it. Some reports I’ve read said that his gun was recovered in a sock or a pouch or something, which if true – and that’s just another big ‘if’ to add to the collection – would mean he never got his gun out (and of course we already know that he did not fire it). But I can picture all sorts of things that could have happened that may have looked enough like going for a gun to the police for them to have fired. Not suicide, but not necessarily any kind of wrongful death either.

      Doesn’t mean I’m shedding any tears for the guy, by the way. Not even slightly.

  7. August 10, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    I believe that this lovely family man was almost as well-RESPECTed as the more famous Michael Corleone and, like Mr Corleone, active in the retail pharmaceuticals industry and known to carry a weapon – purely for his own protection, of course. Except at children’s birthday parties. Whether his gun was licensed or not is unclear. I think we should be told.

    On the day in question, perhaps this much-admired father of four unwittingly gave a nervous officer reason to believe he was about to fire it, possibly by pointing it in a marked manner. Or perhaps, as I suspect, he was just scratching his head with it. After all, there are lots of midges about at this time of year. I expect we shall learn that any fear on the part of the officer who fired will prove to have been baseless. Again, I think we should wait to be told.

    • August 11, 2011 at 3:50 am

      You serious? I’ve just re-read the post and if you think I’m canonising Duggan or claiming that the cop had no reason to shoot then I’m at a loss to explain why. I think I’ve made it clear that we are not talking about a pillar of the community here, and more importantly that it’s perfectly possible the cop who shot him had an honest belief that there was a genuine need to do so without necessarily having to see a gun. Whether or not fear on the part of an officer eventually turns out to be baseless is completely irrelevant – all that matters is whether it was real, and if it was the decision to shoot is perfectly understandable. I repeat: all I am questioning at this point is why the first reports were of a gunfight when little more was known at the time than that the dead guy was, as expected, armed, and whether any effort was made to get a more objective story into print even if it might not have looked quite as good for the police.

      And just in case you’re still in doubt, don’t think for one picosecond I’m shedding any tears for Mark Duggan. Maybe the inquest will rule wrongful death, maybe it will rule lawful killing – at this point I don’t know and I’m happy to leave it to the people who’ll actually see the evidence rather than judge from media reports ten thousand miles away, though it probably doesn’t take much benefit of doubt for the police for it to be lawful killing. But this isn’t about Duggan and who or what he was or exactly what got him killed. It’s about why the original story that painted the Met in a good light turned out to be bullshit, whether they had a hand in it running that way, and whether they or the IPCC tried to correct it.

  8. August 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    The IPCC released this information just before nightfall yesterday. Was that the best time?

  9. Peter
    August 10, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    I agree that this has been handled badly but I don’t blame the Met. They were hamstrung by previous failures and so said nothing.

    The miscommunication has all come from the IPCC – who are (supposedly) independent from the police.

    Can we at least blame the incompetent government lackeys who don’t have to put themselves in harm’s way when trying to restrain the consequences of the criminal behaviour which we’ve seen for the last few evenings.

    • August 11, 2011 at 3:59 am

      Not so sure about that. If they chose to say nothing that was letting the media run with something that was not certain, and as it turns out was actually not true. Wouldn’t be at all surprised if that’s what happened but if so I’d say it was a terrible decision and they deserve to be held accountable for it. Probably it’ll get forgotten about because of all the rioting and looting but my concern is that it’s not the first time that the account of a police shooting has, shall we say, evolved over time into something rather different from the initial reports. What I’m interested in is how much this is due to media sensationalism and how much from the authorities going ‘Ah, sod it, if it wasn’t quite like that it was probably close enough’ and then finding out otherwise.

  10. August 10, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    In the cold light of day, the officers probably got it wrong, but the whole thing is pretty marginal and we have to accept that two or three individuals can get it wrong, that is not the same as saying that “The Metropolitan Police” being 30,000 officers somehow collectively got it wrong.

    And it’s not like all white middle class lawyers hit the streets after they shot Mark Saunders (probably rightly) or Brazil cut off diplomatic relations after they shot poor old Menezes (which was disgraceful and the cover up was worse) or all painters and decorators started looting B&Q after they shot Harry Stanley (also, almost certainly unjustifiably).

    There are, to be fair, enough police officers who do get killed in the line of duty because they give the wrong nutter the benefit of the doubt in the wrong blink of an eye so let’s not be too hard on them.

    Oh yes, and the copper who beat Ian Tomlinson to the ground can go down for life AFAIAC.

    • August 11, 2011 at 3:52 am

      And it’s not like all white middle class lawyers hit the streets after they shot Mark Saunders (probably rightly) or Brazil cut off diplomatic relations after they shot poor old Menezes (which was disgraceful and the cover up was worse) or all painters and decorators started looting B&Q after they shot Harry Stanley (also, almost certainly unjustifiably).

      Quite. And agreed about Ian Tomlinson too.

    • August 11, 2011 at 11:11 am

      “And it’s not like all white middle class lawyers hit the streets after they shot Mark Saunders…”

      One of them wasted no time in looking up the widow’s name in his little black book, though!

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