When will the Police learn to admit their mistakes?

In a week in which the truth behind Hillsborough has been revealed and apologised for, the police has a lot to make up for. Yet this week begins with the fact that PC Simon Harwood has admitted to ‘discrediting’ the Met police and conceded that he tried to resign over the issue twice but his request was refused.

During the 2009 G20 protests Ian Tomlinson was struck by a baton and pushed to the ground by Mr Harwood.  He died minutes later. Ever since his death there has been much attention on the case and on May this year PC Simon Haywood was acquitted of manslaughter.

In the aftermath of this verdict the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) judged that the case be referred to the internal disciplinary proceedings. For the first time the hearing took place in public. One may argue that this is an improvement and a sign of openness. However the confession of Mr Harwood that he was ‘wrong’ to push Mr Tomlinson seems to contradict his previous defence against manslaughter of using ‘reasonable force’.

The full details of the extent of the Hillsborough cover up and the role of South Yorkshire police has been revealed this week. The cover up started in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, with rumours of drunk and out of control fans dripped into the press to begin the fabrication.

In the case of Ian Tomlinson there were similar signs such as the botched post-mortem that assigned ‘natural causes’ as the cause of death. This was only questioned when footage of PC Harwood’s push emerged and in a second post mortem ‘internal bleeding’ was given as the cause. It was this confusion that led to the dropping of charges due to the disagreement over the cause of death. 

Two years on an inquiry produced a verdict of unlawful killing and in 2012 PC Simon Harwood was found not guilty. After the verdict in July, Deborah Glass, deputy chairwoman of the IPCC said ‘significant questions’ remained regarding PC Harwood’s actions of that day.

There are twenty years between the events at Hillsborough and the death of Ian Tomlinson, and in years between have come the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the wrongful shooting of John Charles de Menezes and the death at Brixton Police station of Sean Rigg. All mistakes by the police, and all have been followed by misinformation, internal investigations, inquests and inquires.

There is a problem within the police force of being unable to admit wrong doing. It appears that the knee jerk reaction is to shift blame, which leads to a drawn out process, and it eventually comes to the surface. The shame only increases with time. Already three years after Ian Tomlinson’s death the family are taking the case to a civil court, which is a sad repetition in such cases against the police.

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