I’m friends with all sorts on Twitter. Some are members of that puzzling faction who believe that the real problem with the country isn’t deep and abiding police corruption, but protestors and people wandering around un-tased.
During an argument this morning about this example of assault by police officers (for which even the Commissioner of the Met apologised), one of them opined “Never trust a lawyer unless they’re instructed by you” to which I responded “And never trust a police officer unless you are one.” In the eyes of this individual, one of those statements was reasonable comment, the other was bigotry. See if you can guess which was which…
So, here are just some of the reasons that spring to mind that I consider statements made by the police to be not especially worthy of trust.
(I should probably point out off the bat that I was brought up in the era of Brass Tacks, where high-profile miscarriages of justice were exposed weekly in prime time. Lots of my early memories of the news are of Irish men referred to by a city and a number being let out of prisons they should not have been in.)
Ian Tomlinson – Although this is often glossed over as the work of ‘one bad apple’, it wasn’t that bad apple who briefed the press that officers were pelted as they tried to help Tomlinson. Which was a lie. The IPCC told the media that Ian Tomlinson’s family had known him to be in poor health and worried about him. Which was a lie. The IPCC claimed that there was “nothing in the story” that he had been assaulted by a police officer. Which was a lie. PC Harwood, of course, lied about being pushed to the ground and losing his helmet and baton. He also said Tomlinson was ‘inviting a physical confrontation’ when video evidence showed him walking away. Freddy Patel, the coroner, said Tomlinson died of natural causes. He was later struck off for “a catalogue of dishonesty and incompetence” dating back a decade. And the incident was only ever admitted because video evidence emerged that contradicted police accounts. If you want a good reason why people don’t trust the police, start here.
Police ‘Injuries’ At The Kingsnorth Power Station Protests - Remember the Kingsnorth Power Station protests? You should, because no less than 70 officers were injured trying to police the protests there. 70! That’s the kind of violence the police say they have to deal with at protests. Except that those injuries included: “being stung on finger by possible wasp” and “officer succumbed to sun and heat” and “officer injured sitting in car.” In fact, there were only 12 injuries, and only 4 of those came as a result of contact with other human beings instead of possible wasps or definite mosquitoes. In the apology he was forced to give to Parliament, Police Minister Vernon Coaker said:
I was informed that 70 police officers were hurt and naturally assumed that they had been hurt in direct contact as a result of the protest. That clearly wasn’t the case and I apologise if that caused anybody to be misled.
Hillsborough - Now, although the IPCC investigation is still on ongoing, and we don’t know the extent of South Yorkshire Police’s lies in this case, what we DO KNOW is: statements were altered (“Some 116 of the 164 statements identified for substantive amendment were amended to remove or alter comments unfavourable to SYP.”), and the extent of that is only now becoming clear. The Taylor Report, the initial investigation from 1989, was unsatisfied with police evidence. As Lord Justice Taylor said at the time: “In all some 65 police officers gave oral evidence at the Inquiry. Sadly I must report that for the most part the quality of their evidence was in inverse proportion to their rank.”
Mark Duggan – Remember when we all knew that Mark Duggan had shot at police? And we knew because that’s what the IPCC had ‘verbally led journalists to believe’? Yes, quite.
Daniel Morgan - The case is too long and convoluted to reprise in detail here, let’s leave it at the fact that in 2011, Scotland Yard conceded that for 24 years Daniel Morgan’s killer had been shielded by police corruption.
Jean Charles de Menezes – Oddly, the reasons I distrust the police here have nothing to do with their shooting the wrong person. It’s with the way they handled information afterwards. They “deliberately withheld” the information that de Menezes was not one of the 21st July suspects from their initial press release, officers changed their evidence, lied about having shouted a warning (to the satisfaction of 8 jurors, 2 believed them), and – let’s be generous - added to the confusion over the video evidence, making statements that were contradicted by those who operated the CCTV. Which leads us to:
Andy Hayman – There are lots of things to dislike about the Met officer turned Murdoch columnist, including his reluctance to investigate allegations against The News Of The World at the same time as having champagne suppers with News International, and, well, let’s let him speak for himself:
Forest Gate – In 2006, another Hayman operation involved arresting 2 brothers on terrorism charges, shooting one in the process. Now, although we don’t know that it was the police who briefed the media that one of the brothers who shot the other, we do know that the CPS suggested that there was child porn on the computers seized, although there wasn’t.
Plebgate – This tawdry incident suggests that there is no event too trivial for the police to break rules to deal with it. Whatever the truth of the incident at the gate, the very best that can be said about it, even giving all involved the benefit of some quite serious doubts, is that a senior police officer leaked Scotland Yard’s restricted report to the CPS (the CPS was unhappy with the ‘quality and quantity’ of the evidence provided by that report). Believe me, no one wanted the police to be telling the truth here more than me. I make my living mocking politicans, but as the story has developed, and the key witness for the police’s version of events turns out NOT TO HAVE EVEN BEEN PRESENT, the whole thing becomes much more shabby.
And, of course, we haven’t had a report from Operation Elveden yet.
This is just a small taster, cobbled together quickly, of why I fundamentally mistrust the statements of the police. It’s why I think policing needs to be better. It’s why I don’t have problems believing that much of the police urgently needs reform, and it’s why I won’t be browbeaten by apologists for corruption.