Monday, August 08, 2011

A world of grey

Doubts have emerged over whether Mark Duggan, whose death sparked the Tottenham riots, was shot in an exchange of fire with police.

As fresh violence breaks out, this time in Enfield, Brixton, Hackney and other areas of London, The Guardian is reporting that initial ballistics tests on a bullet, found lodged in a police radio worn by an officer during Thursday's incident, suggests it was police issue – and therefore had not been fired by Duggan.

Then there are suggestions that the police had taken rather "robust" line with a 16-year-old girl at an early stage of the Tottenham celebrations, which might have intensified the activities.

Add to that, accusations that the police stood by and gave the gangs a free pass, and the general image of the London plods is looking a wee bit fragile.

With all this, it seems rather unwise for Boris Johnson, in his role as London Mayor, to declare that he had no plans to cut short his holiday to return to the capital. Then to tell the BBC that he had "full confidence" in the police strikes one as rash.

And now we see the charlatan Livingston enter the lists in what has been described as "crass political opportunism", blaming spending cuts for the Tottenham riots. Politicians across the spectrum, therefore, seem unable to deal with the realities of a deteriorating situation where inept policing seems, at the very least, to be contributing to the tensions.

One cannot help but think that, had the Bristol riots been taken a bit more seriously, and the role of the police there analysed properly, lessons might have been learned and moves made to minimise police blunders.

However, the power of the narrative – for the moment – is such that we see the age-old game of "police good, rioters bad", being played out, with no room for greys. Even seasoned political observers seem to be falling into this trap, but this time the greys may emerge faster than many people would have thought possible.

Until though, it is properly recognised that police have become part of the problem, there is not going to be much progress, and a whole lot more hurt. We deserve better than that.