TMG’s Stafford Scott has written the below article for the Guardian newspaper today….
When Jermaine Baker was shot dead outside Wood Green crown court by an armed Metropolitan police officer, there were immediate parallels with the 2011 shooting of Mark Duggan. Baker, like Duggan, was of mixed heritage and lived in Tottenham. Not only that: in a number of newspapers Baker was declared to be a known gangster and hardened criminal; some articles even going as far as to refer to a fictitious gang they named as Bloodline, and then linking this “gang” to the Tottenham Man Dem and inevitably to the name of Duggan, as if this somehow helped to explain or justify the killing.
For many locals this was a reminder of the days in August four years ago, when Duggan was falsely claimed to be holding a gun – and even to have shot an officer during the ambush in which he was killed.
This month, though, there are signs that the police have learned the dangers of misinformation and have sought to head off the anger and rage that swept Tottenham, and then the entire country, after Duggan’s death.
The local borough commander, Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa, quickly sought to engage with community concerns and to better understand the impact of Baker’s killing. I was one of those that he engaged with and was then invited to a Gold Group meeting at Scotland Yard to meet senior officers on the Monday after the shooting (in 2011 the then borough commander went on holiday the day after Duggan was killed). It was here that we learned the officer who fired the fatal shot was to be suspended – and also that the weapon allegedly found at the scene was an imitation firearm incapable of firing bullets.
The Rev Nims Obunge, of the Peace Alliance, and I called a community meeting – to which the police, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), the local authority and local MPs were invited – so that we could hear accurate information firsthand.
Cindy Butts, the IPCC commissioner who is responsible for the investigation, read a prepared statement, informing us that the officer who had fired the fatal shot had been arrested and interviewed under caution – an unprecedented step. She made clear that criminal charges would not necessarily follow, and also informed the meeting that a CCTV trawl had been undertaken but no relevant footage had been found.
When asked about rumours that Baker was shot while he slept in the car, Butts said the IPCC did not know whether or not this was true. This was helpful for all those attending, as was the borough commander’s confirmation that Baker’s name had never been on any of the police lists of gang members – which disproves any claimed links to Duggan.
The most contentious issue remaining was the failure of the officers to record communications during covert operations, or to fit audio visual recording devices in covert armed response vehicles.
And the IPCC’s inability to provide a definitive answer on whether Baker was awake is fuelling the growing belief that he must have been asleep at the time. Which then begs the question: how can somebody who was asleep pose an immediate threat to the police or the public?
But the question that everyone wants answered is: why have they suspended the officer and arrested him; what do they know that we don’t? Clearly this is a question the commissioner cannot answer at this point in the investigation. But, given last weekend’s news that David Cameron wants to give officers who shoot and kill suspects even more protection from the law than they already have, the need for transparency, openness and answers in this case is more urgent than ever.
Many of us believe armed officers already have enough protection – after all, none of those who shot Duggan or Jean Charles de Menezes, both unarmed, faced charges. In Tottenham, we were told by the Duggan inquest verdict that it is legal for police officers to shoot unarmed black men. For us, it would be unthinkable for the state to authorise the killing of another unarmed person, who appears to be posing no immediate threat, without that officer properly being held to account for his or her actions.
Tottenham is a community where too many have died at the hands of the police. It is a community now holding its breath as it waits for the outcome of yet another IPCC investigation. While it is true that few in Tottenham have faith in the independence of this organisation, the speed with which the investigation is progressing gives us hope that it has learned much since its woeful performance following Duggan’s death.
We have yet to hear from Baker’s family, who are still too shocked to speak publicly of their loss, and we will be guided by their wishes. But, at the very least, the people of Tottenham will continue our demand that the authorities carry out a thorough, transparent, robust and timely investigation that ultimately reveals the full facts.
See full article here