The day after Ian Tomlinson's killer, PC Simon Harwood, was fired for 'gross misconduct' by a Met disciplinary committee and a week after it was revealed that a police conspiracy covered up the truth about the Hillsborough disaster, a narrative is being constructed of, in the words of Prime Minister David Cameron, 'the debt we owe to those who put themselves in danger to keep us safe and secure.'
The Tomlinson family, those haunted by the Hilsboro tragedy and the relatives of many other victims of police brutality may not necessarily feel that the 'safety and security' of the general public is the first priority of the police force who have time and again acted to protect their own whilst using extreme force against unarmed and vulnerable people (think of Alfie Meadows' severe head injuries inflicted by the police at a student protest or the death of Sean Rigg and Smiley Culture in custody, amongst many others).
Two unarmed officers, PC Nicola Hughes and PC Fiona Bone, were called out to a reported burglary in Mottram, Tameside, Greater Manchester around 11am Tuesday morning. According the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) the call was a hoax carried out by known killer Dale Cregan or by an accomplice. It is believed that Cregan shot and threw a hand grenade at the two officers, although the actual sequence of events is not entirely clear.
Cregan had murdered two men earlier this year and was being tracked by the police. GMP Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said that the address the officers were called to 'was not known to us, was not in our intelligence systems [and] had not featured in this particular inquiry.'
According to the BBC a witness said that the property had been 'unoccupied for months.'
Time will tell whether the version of events reported today are to be taken at face value but there will be many who have little trust in such official stories. Will the police follow lines of inquiry that could show their handling of the case to be inept, or will they accentuate evidence that implies they are the unwitting victims of a criminal conspiracy?
And other questions remain, like why was Cregan, who handed himself in after killing the officers, later admitted to hospital? As more of the story unfolds it's worth bearing in mind that the police don't have a good track record of straight reporting.
The events around the police shooting of Mark Duggan before last year's riots were reported to suggest that Duggan had shot at the police. It now appears that only a police gun was fired and Duggan was unarmed. However the Independent Police Conplaints Committee (IPCC) have not been allowed to interview the officers involved in the killing.
According to a Guardian comment piece by Stafford Scott officers are not obliged to testify to the IPCC: 'as the law currently stands, you could go to a police conference, with hundreds of officers in attendance. If an officer shot you in front of the entire audience not one of them would be forced to give a statement. Yet, if you were to shoot one of them, the entire audience would be ready to testify against you.'
And the killing of Jean Charles De Menezes following the 7/7 attacks in London left key questions of police procedure unanswered: 'the legal team acting for the [de Menezes] family raised a range of concerns about the police operation at every level, including in particular the lack of clarity and control in the command structure, the confusion over the role of the Designated Senior Officer, the lack of clarity over identification, the failure of communication between the different teams (control room, surveillance and firearms) and the inherent weakness in the MPS strategy to deal with failed suicide bombers...
The family regret that none of the officers giving evidence at the inquest, and in particular those in command of the operation, were prepared to accept responsibility for the failings, instead maintaining they had done nothing wrong.'
Much Like Raoul Moates' 2010 shooting of a police officer (who later committed suicide due to his injuries) a story of brave 'hero' cops is being created just at a time when the police are mired in scandal. We mustn't lose sight of that fact.
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