I once saw the Met’s CO19 firearms unit in action. It was surreal, in that way sudden drama can exceed your capacity to understand what’s unfolding around you.
On my way back from the corner shop, a young woman stopped me: “Stand still please sir.” Civilian clothes...black and white chequered cap. Just across the road, eight people carrying guns were crowded around a house doorway, flattened against the wall. One knocked. The occupant, clearly expecting company, came charging out and we heard two loud bangs. The young man lay stock-still, nose on the pavement. Tasered, it transpired. Officers holstered their weapons and slumped against bonnets, chain smoking.
Yesterday’s jury verdict on the fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan – the incident that sparked the 2011 riots, when nearly 4,000 people were arrested across England – is reasonable based on the evidence they heard, but will do little to restore trust in the police in Tottenham.
Two officers testified that Duggan had a weapon when he was shot, but forensic and expert evidence failed to support their account.
Mark Duggan was a criminal who, the day he died, had collected a gun. He was no Brazilian electrician, chased into the Underground and slain by plain-clothed marksmen as he boarded a train carriage.
Duggan did not deserve to die. But that is not the decision reached by the jury. Their verdict was not that it was right that Mark Duggan was killed. They decided only that using deadly force had been within the parameters of the law, that the firing officer could have believed, even mistakenly, that he needed to use force to defend himself or another.
It is not their verdict that damages public confidence, but the cascading errors by the Met and the maligned police watchdog. And yet again officers give incorrect testimony at an inquest. A dangerous habit.