The late Christopher Hitchens was very fond his trumpet-call that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” His attacks against the faithful are just as relevant to those whose reverence of the police service blinds them to some of the most damning suspicions that confront it.
Let’s try. I have an extraordinary claim for you: that the following chronicle of events is nothing but “a thousand fuckups”, honest and sweet:
- Even though Mark Duggan was not carrying a gun, which he had somehow managed to throw 20ft without any witness seeing, V53 shot him in the honest belief that he was;
- V53 shot him again when it seemed as though Duggan’s phantom gun was pointing in his direction;
- There was nothing of interest in Duggan’s minicab, which was mysteriously removed from the scene before being returned;
- The Met’s descent first from the erroneous claim that Duggan had fired on police, then to the claim that he had a gun, then that a trained marksman had thought that he had, was an awkward list of blunders;
- The neatly-collaborating statements of both V53 and his colleague was unrelated to the eight hours in which they had been conferring;
- So too was their refusal to answer any questions in separate interviews.
I will grant you that each of those points, on its own, is plausible; we are all human. But taken together, V53’s series of events are most fantastical.
So where, I ask, is the extraordinary evidence to explain it? The defensive mechanisms will kick in: no member of the public can hope to share in the inquest’s insight, I am told. I don’t dispute that; worse, I know full well that I lack both the skills and the patience to come up with anything of use from the evidence. Legal systems uproot our lefty assumptions, they say – no anti-racist battle cries, no strikes. Just the jury’s impartial conclusions.
No, forget all of that. My question is – what possible extra “detail” could salvage this incredible story?
I ask because the police are simply not measured to the same standards as the public under their watch. Not a single officer, in the last fifty years, has been convicted for death in custody. And how does this come as a surprise – to all but the merriest utopians – when juries like that at the inquest into Duggan’s death have to be “certain” of the officer’s malicious intent? There’s not a single psychologist in Britain who could do that.
Perhaps the officer was telling the truth about his mistake; I am in no position to say. Nor do I know whether or not V53 was intended to be the scapegoat of an inept, or institutionally racist, police service; as it stands, these questions cannot be answered while officers are absolved of the burden of proof.
But may I remind you that someone died here – anyone who does not question this verdict not only shows himself content with the prospect of executions on the streets of London, but surrenders his analytical faculties to the lame, brain-dead assumptions that saturate most of this country’s understanding of police integrity.
Don’t assume the best of the police.