Policing reprised

I knew it. I just knew it.

Which is that even picking out the differences very carefully, some posters would not distinguish between my saying that events of the weekend in Tottenham were a) predictable and b) on SOME readings of political theory “justifiable” (which is not at all the same thing as saying they were “justified”) as providing full-throated support for rioters and denigrating the police involved.

No. That’s not the point at all. But if people can’t or won’t hear the somewhat more subtle message i am trying to put over, then I predict (note: that’s about forecasting; about stating an expectation for the future, NOT about lending support to the rioters) we’ll see more of the same.

That’s more mistakes made by police. More weasel words as the cover-up gets under way. More outrage turning, in some instances, to violence. And finally, more sanctimony from politicians who can’t or won’t make connections: who can’t or won’t understand that if there is a perception that some sections of society – particularly those tasked with upholding law and order – are seen to be beyond ordinary considerations of law and order then they are, themselves, part of the problem.

A major operative phrase here is “seen to be”. As i have said on numerous occasions: i deal in pr and public perception. I am interested in spin and the workings of same. Sometimes i am responsible for spinning stories. Sometimes i advise individuals on how stories are likely to play in the national media.

Its a game of competing perceptions and perception of an incident is far from the same thing as the reality of it. What went down on thursday when police shot Mark Duggan, i do not know. What happened on saturday, when the riots kicked off, i do not know.

Nor do 99.9% of peopole pontificating on the issues now.

What i do know and recognise very well is a well-oiled police obfuscation machine getting into action almost as soon as the first shot was fired.

Remember the case of Brazilian electrician Charles de Menezes, shot in error by the Met a few years back? Remember, also, how misinformation about that shooting started to emerge within hours of the event? Information designed to put the victim in a bad light, the police in a good?

Now compare and contrast thursday. The IPCC was quick to condemn speculation: quick to explain how it would be making no statement at all until the facts were in. And then: oh my! It found time to release the suggestion – now hotly contested – that Mark Duggan fired the first shot.

Sorry. That doesn’t wash. That is not the IPCC being independent investigatory body: that is IPCC being full on part of the spin process – and dangerously so, because if, as now alleged, the shot supposedly fired by Mark Duggan came from a police marksman it is yet ANOTHER instance of the higher-ups in and around the police telling everyone to wait for a full and frank investigation, whilst spinning madly in the meantime.

I am not criticising the officers on duty on saturday night. I am not justifying the action taken by rioters. But i am asking that, suggesting that those in charge in the Met and in police forces nationally stop trying to spin police mistakes and are prepared to hold their hands up when things go wrong.

I first became aware of this awful topic a couple of years back when i came across a listing of individuals killed “in error” by the police
over a decade. We were not talking a handful. We were talking dozens: dozens of innocent individuals killed, with never once an individual police officer held to account.

Can’t think of any? Harry Stanley. Ian Tomlinson. Jimmy Ashley. Jean Charles de Menezes. Stephen Waldorf. And on.

That is not the fault of individual officers. It does suggest something unhealthy in the investigatory system.



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