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IPCC: situation vacant

David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham has renewed calls for the officer who shot Mark Duggan to be suspended. Speaking in a House of Commons’ debate yesterday, Lammy said it was ‘incredible’ the officer was still working.

This decision, together with the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s (IPCC) initial handling of the enquiry, has again left people wondering if the body isn’t just a ‘toothless tiger’. The Duggan shooting, which subsequently led to the August riots in London and other parts of the country, is currently being looked into by the IPCC which replaced the old Police Complaints authority. The 400-strong staff, some 30% of whom are ex-police officers, currently costs around £35 million per year to run. The IPCC has about 121 investigators amongst its staff and only a small proportion is drawn from ethnic minority groups.

David Lammy has more of an interest in this subject than most. His constituency, Tottenham, has now suffered three high profile and highly-publicised deaths following contact with police: namely, Cynthia Jarrett in 1985, Roger Sylvester in 1999, and Mark Duggan in August.

Lammy suggested that of the two arms to the IPCC remit, the second, that of public guardianship seemed to be failing – the first arm is police scrutiny.

In the days following the shooting, despite having no less than 15 media officers, no one from the IPCC appeared to reassure the public that it would investigate Mark Duggan’s death and I quote  ‘thoroughly, impartially, and independently’. Duggan’s family learned of his death from TV reports, and were not contacted by the IPCC until two days after the shooting.

The trials of David Norris and Gary Dobson, accused of killing Stephen Lawrence in 1993 began this week at the Old Bailey, made possible by the latest advancements in forensic science. Following two police and one public inquiry, the Macpherson report highlighted institutional racism as a reason for the original investigation failing to bring anyone to account for the killing. Macpherson, like Lord Scarman following the Brixton riots, also called for an independent body to be set up to restore public confidence in the police.

 

Situation vacant

The body that was set up, the IPCC, is currently without a chair, the previous incumbent having resigned some months ago. On the commission’s own website, the vacancy is advertised calling for a ‘dynamic and inspirational leader’ with a ‘strong reputation for independence of thought and deed’. It would seem strange given the current climate that more effort hasn’t gone into filling the post, suggesting that the job of restoring public faith in the police is not particularly high on the agenda.

The successful candidate will have his work cut out as, at present, the public could be forgiven for thinking that as it stands, the IPCC are apologists for the police.

Both John Yates, former Assistant Commissioner of the Met, in trouble for allegedly helping the daughter of Neil Wallis get a job with the service, and Sir Paul Stephenson, former Commissioner have both recently been very quickly cleared of any wrongdoing by the IPCC  - reports on deaths in custody taking anything up to four years to produce.

The IPCC did not even feel it necessary to interview Sir Paul regarding his acceptance of a free five-week stay at Champneys, an exclusive health spa. Sir Paul claimed not to know that Neil Wallis, sometime provider of PR to the Met was also an adviser to Champneys. The Commission’s statement in explaining the reason behind the decision not to take disciplinary action was ‘the public will make its own judgements about whether any senior public official should accept hospitality to this extent from anyone’.

A rather extraordinary conclusion you might think. The closing date for applications is November 24th in case you are interested in applying.

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