The tragic death of Ian Tomlinson in the City of London on 1st April may not have been avoidable . H might have had a heart attack at any time. That, of course, does not alter the tragedy for his family and friends.
However, the apparent actions by individual officers in the run up to Mr Tomlinson’s death, the way in which the questions have arisen about any police involvement and the handling of those questions are now threatening to pose as serious a crisis for the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police as the death of Jean-Charles de Menezes did for the Met in 2005.
The initial police statements suggested that police officers helped Mr Tomlinson when he collapsed and that they while they were doing so missiles were thrown at them. This may well have been the case – certainly, I was told that CCTV footage supported this version of events.
Subsequently, it emerged that a short time before Mr Tomlinson collapsed he appears to have been knocked to the ground by a police officer and The Guardian published video footage of this incident.
There have been many sensible comments about this already from a variety of sources, including Mayor Boris Johnson (who called the video footage disturbing), Vice Chairman of the MPA Kit Malthouse (who is meeting the Independent Police Complaints Commission to urge a speedy and thorough investigation), the GLA Labour Group (calling for full disclosure) and Iain Dale (who has warned that the truth cannot be swept under the carpet).
Apparently, the IPCC has now decided to take over full responsibility for the investigation (previously they were “supervising” an investigation by the City of London Police). This is entirely proper and should have been announced as soon as doubts about the initial police version of events emerged.
As far as I know it is not yet clear who the officer is that is shown in the Guardian video apparently knocking Mr Tomlinson to the ground – indeed it is yet to be establihed whether the officer is from the Metropolitan Police or from the City of London Police.
However, the officers shown in the video must know that they were there and – I trust – will be cooperating fully with the investigation. Given that the scene was not that busy and that they will have known that someone died near where they were, I assume that they will already have been debriefed by their supervisors. If that did not happen, then that in itself must be a cause for concern. If it did happen, why was such a complacent initial statement put out by the Police?
The IPCC need to act speedily and effectively to establish the sequence of events and to get statements from all concerned. How the Police respond to this will be a test for the new Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, and his counter-part in the City of London Police.