THE BLOG

Mark Duggan Inquest Shows We Need Better Relations Between Police and Community

09/01/2014 15:25 GMT | Updated 11/03/2014 09:59 GMT

In the summer of 2011 the death of Mark Duggan was like a blue touch paper that lit the flame of urban insurrection all around the country. It quickly deteriorated into mere 'copy cat' rioting. But the anger about the death of Mark Duggan was never just about the man himself. It was about long standing issues between communities and the police. So anger about this week's verdict of "lawful killing" is about so much more than the technicalities of the case.

One of the biggest issues that inflame relationships between the community and the police is the abuse of 'stop and search'. Black and Muslim people have long been wholly disproportionately subjected to this tactic. Nobody has any objection to evidence based stops. But what angers the black community is non evidence-based 'stop and search' apparently imposed largely on the basis of skin colour. And evidence suggests that this is what is happening. Research shows that in some areas black people are 29 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched. Overall black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched.

And it is worth restating that these levels of 'stop and search' do not correlate to levels of criminality in the black community. Nor is the tactic particularly effective in stopping crime. The most likely thing found by random stop and search is actually small quantities of cannabis for personal use. But nothing has caused more upset in the community than the abuse of this tactic.

'Stop and search' was responsible for the original Brixton riots in the Eighties. And it remains a running sore. So the police urgently need to do more to minimise non evidence-based stops.

Another issue which has poisoned relationships between the community and the authorities is black deaths in custody. Sometimes this is police custody, but there have also been problematic deaths of people detained for mental health issues. It has not gone unnoticed in the community that no policeman has ever been, so much as, reprimanded for a death in custody. This is another issue which needs much more transparency and more willingness to listen to the community.

Nobody suffers more from crime than our poorest communities. So it is in everyone's interest for the police to be able to do their job effectively. But it has long been a cornerstone of the Metropolitan's approach to crime fighting that they can only operate effectively with the consent of all communities. It has recently been revealed that the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is purchasing water cannon for use in the event of more inner city riots. That is the opposite of what is required. The authorities moving into the inner city like an army of occupation would only make matters worse.

What the Duggan family decide to do now, after the inquest verdict, will be their choice. But the rest of us have to continue to fight for better relations between the police and community and for the importance of leaving some of the abuses of the past behind.