Justice system exists to defend police injustice
The latest crisis in the police goes beyond individual racism, the whole system defends the police from accountability or prosecution.
Crown Prosecution Service
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the government agency involved in bringing forward cases for prosecution, works hand in glove with the police. It has a long record of giving police a ‘get out of jail free card’ in cases involving abuses or corruption.
Only last year the CPS was criticised by the parliamentary committee investigating the phone-hacking scandal for “rubber stamping” Scotland Yard’s decision to restrict its original investigation of media-police corruption in 2005-6, concealing the levels of corruption.
Again and again it has refused to prosecute the police citing insufficient evidence or claiming the police used “reasonable” force, with the latest example the case of Mauro Demetrio exposed last week by the Guardian.
Indeed it stands accused of racism itself, with a 2001 independent report showing the racial segregating of staff, and has faced scores of complaints by CPS staff and lawyers of discrimination and racism in the last few years.
Independent Police Complaints Commission
The so-called Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which has investigated complaints against the police since 2004, is no better. IPCC reports are often used by the CPS as the basis to prosecute and it was set up precisely to deflect mounting criticism about the justice system protecting police killers. However it is part of the same system and independent in name only.
The spotlight was put on the IPCC last summer in the case of Mark Duggan, the young black man shot dead by Tottenham cops in broad daylight, the spark that exploded into the August riots which ripped across London and other major cities. From the start the IPCC supported, without any evidence, the police’s claims that Mark had carried a gun and fired it at police, only retracting this in the following weeks when evidence accumulated proving this to be a lie. Not only had the police fired all the bullets found on the scene, not only did Duggan have no gun on his person, much less pull one out or shoot, but there is no solid proof that Duggan had a gun at all.
This is not the first time that the IPCC has gone to bat for the police, they have been accused of the same bias in several high profile cases of deaths, usually of black men, at the hands of the police. The riots meant that its failure in this case received much more coverage than it would have otherwise.
The IPCC massages the statistics for police deaths in custody, listing the 333 that have died in police custody from 1998/9 to 2008/9 but leaving off the list the many who have died at the police’s hands without being arrested or detained. Similarly it counts only sixteen out of the 86 deaths that came after police restraint as restraint related, leaving out at least eight high profile cases including that of Roger Sylvester. His death in 1999 from cardiac arrest and brain damage came after six police restrained him at in a mental illness hospital ward. It sparked a media debate about police restraint techniques that led to police reviewing their training.
The IPCC is anything but independent. It investigates less than one percent of police complaints – the police investigate the rest , with the IPCC taking on the high-profile and political cases like that of Mark Duggan. A third of its cases are “managed” investigations carried out by the police themselves, while for its own investigations a third of its staff are ex-police and it uses police officers seconded from duty. Deborah Glass, Deputy Chair of the IPCC admitted to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism . “In legal and practical terms… the IPCC has directional control of the investigation, but in fact the police carry it out.”
Of course the IPCC is under-resourced and bound by laws that limit what information it can give out in public. Now the IPCC is saying that it cannot release “sensitive information” in the Mark Duggan case, which may mean there is no inquest and any inquiry might be held in part behind closed doors. Its report will be delayed till the Autumn. The Duggan family and the United Friends and Families Campaign are rightly demanding that an open investigation with all information made public.
The IPCC however does not simply have its hands tied, it passes its reports to the CPS to act on, with its recommendations often key to the decision whether to prosecute or not in cases such as the Roger Sylvester case, passed on to the new IPCC in 2004 which then decided that too much time had passed for prosecution – after the CPS had decided in 2001 not to prosecute due to lack of evidence, which an inquest overturned.
In 2008 representatives on the IPCC advisory board from the Police Action Lawyers Group (PALG), a nationwide coalition of lawyers representing members of the public who have lodged complaints against the police, walked out after “increasing dismay and disillusionment” with the body. They charged the IPCC with ignoring complaints it had made about the inadequate investigation, or blatant ignoring of evidence, in cases involving police racism, corruption, violence, fabrication of evidence and even deaths in custody.
The Home Office appointed, unaccountable, £75k-a-year IPCC bureaucrats are part of the system, not an independent watchdog over it.
We need to campaign for an independent workers’ committee to investigate police abuse and corruption. Guilty coppers should go to jail, and the rest should be disarmed and stripped of their powers, as the only way to halt the systematic racist violence doled out by the police, and excused by their so-called watchdogs.