Once again the Metropolitan Police stands accused of misleading the public about a controversial death. A narrative (apparently relying heavily on police sources) emerged from reports on the death of the suspected gangster Mark Duggan last Thursday. It was claimed that Duggan had opened fire on officers from the Met's firearms unit when they moved in to arrest him. It was reported that the police had shot Duggan dead in response. There was even the suggestion that one officer only escaped being killed by Duggan because his radio took a bullet.
Yet the Independent Police Complaints Commission reported yesterday that there exists "no evidence" that Duggan fired at the police before he was killed, and that the bullet lodged in the officer's radio came from a police-issue handgun.
This fits a depressing pattern whereby the police have either fed misinformation to the public or failed to correct the record. After the 2005 shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, police sources briefed that the Brazilian had worn a bulky jacket and vaulted a ticket barrier. After Ian Tomlinson died in 2009 at the London G20 protests, the Met made no mention of the fact that the newspaper seller had been struck by one of their officers. Instead, it stressed that officers had attempted to save Tomlinson's life while being pelted by a hail of missiles from protesters. An inquest subsequently found that the claim about missiles was false.
Those members of the Tottenham community who marched on their local police station on Saturday turn out to have been justified in their doubts about the reports of Duggan's death. It is widely agreed that the Metropolitan Police is no longer the heavy-handed bigoted organisation that it was in the early 1980s. And the Met's anti-gun crime unit, Operation Trident, enjoys widespread support from the capital's black community. But that only makes it all the more vital that the full facts regarding how Duggan died come out – and that the police cease trying to spin their mistakes.