Yesterday the Metropolitan Police got what it has been publicly lusting after since the riots of 2011. The deputy mayor for a policing and crime has given the Met permission to buy 3 water cannons from German Federal Police.
Our great leaders have supported the decision with public school educated Boris Johnson going so far as to agree to be blasted by a new water cannon to prove it’s safety. Whether Theresa May approves the use of water cannon of the streets of Britain remains to be seen, but what is clear is the police cannot be trusted with standard issue batons, tasers or firearms, let alone weapons that can remove people’s skin and take old men’s eyes out.
Since 2004 a total of 827 people have died in police during of following police contact, yet since 19
69 no officer has been convicted for any malfeasance in these deaths. The lack of accountability is contrasted sharply with the incessant hounding of innocent black men over the death of PC Keith Blakelock in the Broadwater Farm riots which continues to this day with the recent acquittal of Nicky Jacobs.
Even in cases of egregious police misconduct it has taken years of work to get any semblance of justice. In the case of Sean Rigg, who died in police custody in 2008, the IPCC dismissed seriously incriminating evidence as not relevant and even met with Brixton police officers after the death to release a press statement that was later found to be misleading and inaccurate. An inquest into Rigg’s death found that officers had used “unsuitable and unnecessary force” and had “more than minimally” contributed to his death. Three officers were finally arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice in relation to evidence given at the inquest, yet over a year later they still haven’t been charged. There have been no arrests directly related to the death of Sean Rigg.
In 2010 Alfie Meadows underwent an emergency brain operation after being assaulted by riot police during the tuition fee protests which swept through the capital. He was subsequently arrested and charged with violent disorder, which has a maximum sentence of five years. Meadows was acquitted in 2013 with the jury unanimously accepting Meadow’s account that he and his fellow defendant were defending themselves and others from the police.
The coroners report into the killing of Mark Duggan severely criticised the procedures in place after an incident involving firearms. Officers are specifically told not to confer when writing their statements, yet are allowed to sit in the same room to write them. The coroner also criticised other aspects of the police investigation, including, delays in making statements and omissions from initial accounts of the killing. Overall the inquest found that although Duggan was unarmed, he had been ‘lawfully killed.’ A judicial review into Duggan inquest has been granted.
It is obvious the police cannot be trusted with water cannon, an instrument which is designed to cause indiscriminate mass damage to anyone it is aimed at. Perhaps Boris Johnson will allow himself to be blasted with water cannon. What we can be certain of is the operator won’t be aiming for his face, and the pressure will probably set to nothing more than a pleasant tickle. When the first deaths and serious injuries caused by water cannon occur, we’ll know exactly who to blame.
Adam Barr @adam3e8ti