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Time to sack the watchdog

Two advisors have resigned from the community group set up by the Independent Police Complaints Commission after the police killing of Mark Duggan in Tottenham last August.

The move marks a serious breakdown of relations between the black community and the body that is supposed to monitor police behaviour.

A statement by Stafford Scott reveals the IPCC’s complicity in a process of deliberate disinformation. Scott, who has engaged with the police since the Macpherson report, says that police removal of the vehicle that Duggan travelled in shortly before he was shot has so tainted the investigation that “we will never be able to have faith in their final report into the killing.”

Scott says the IPCC broke its own guidelines “by giving out erroneous information to journalists regarding the 'shoot-out' involving Mark Duggan and police that didn't actually happen.”

Both the Met and the IPCC are now threatening to report the Guardian to the Press Complaints Commission for stating that Mark Duggan was unarmed at the time he was shot by a police marksman.

Scott, who was an advisor to the Met, now believes the IPCC “suffers worse flaws than the force it is investigating.”

But the police killing of Duggan is, human rights campaign group Black Mental Health UK, says, not simply an isolated example of cover-ups. It forms part of a pattern and a “hidden history” of black people in Britain.

Matilda MacAttram, editor of the BMH’s Solution Magazine , told A World to Win that “a very important part of the black experience is marked by deaths in custody. This is something as live today in the recent cases of Kingsley Burrell-Brown and Mark Duggan as it was over 42 years ago when police hounded David Oluvale to death and threw him into a river.”

The second-ever edition of the on-line magazine, produced during Black History Month, has Oluwale and five other black men on its commemorative cover. Oluwale, Orville Blackwood, David Bennett, Mikey Powell, Sean Rigg, Kingsley Burrell-Brown – none of them over 40 years of age – all died in custody between 1969 and 2011.

“It is a pattern, which is the same whether or not you are a mental health user. The deaths of these men may not seem linked, but for their families, a fit and healthy man, their loved one, no longer exists,” MacAttram says.

The Solution Magazine highlights the long-term effect of deaths in custody or during police raids on the children left behind, by interviewing the sons of Orville Blackwood and Cherry Groce.

African Caribbeans are 50% more likely to enter the psychiatric health system, 44% are more likely to be sectioned, 29% more likely to be forcibly restrained, 50% more likely to be placed in seclusion. Detention rates for people from the UK African Caribbean community have doubled over 2005-2010 and over half the deaths of people in police custody are mental health users.

Stafford Scott and his fellow adviser John Noblemunn should be commended for refusing to serve on the community reference group set up by the IPCC. Scott has courageously broken the confidentiality agreement he signed when agreeing to serve on the group. He is now calling for “a body truly willing and able to investigate the police,” which he says, “is the only way to ensure that they will learn from their mistakes; and that, when mistakes occur, communities do not believe the one route to justice lies in taking matters into their own hands.”

But the lack of progress in the treatment of ethnic minority and black people in custody, whether directly by police or in mental health institutions, shows that existing institutions are far more than just flawed. It is a powerful argument for the disbanding not only of the IPCC, but of the police and the prison system and their replacement by bodies under the control of communities they are intended to serve.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary
22 November 2011

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