How V53 might not be a liar (but is still a racist and a murderer)

No doubt some of you have been following the Mark Duggan inquest today. The officer who shot Duggan, V53, gave some rather baffling evidence. He swears blind that he saw a gun in Duggan’s hand, to the point that he could describe it, and yet the alleged gun which he saw in so much detail was also shrouded in a sock and somehow managed to teleport quite far away. Supernatural explanations notwithstanding, it looks rather a lot like our porcine witness is telling fibs. This seems like a particularly logical conclusion on a day where it has emerged that–shock horror!–cops are fucking liars.

Even assuming that it is impossible for guns to apparate by magic out of a sock and over a fence some distance away, however, it is possible that V53’s evidence is entirely honest. There is a psychological effect known as “weapon bias” which makes people see guns where there are none. Simply the effect of seeing a black face can make research participants imagine that they have seen a gun, especially when they are tasked with making a split-second decision. Interestingly, this effect seems to happen even when the participants are black. It is theorised that the underlying cause for this is racial stereotypes, which is exacerbated by making snap decisions.

Ultimately, then, it is entirely possible that V53 was telling the truth when he saw that magical gun. That doesn’t make him any less of a racist or a murderer, simply that the fact he is a racist has warped his memory. Likewise, it doesn’t make him any less culpable for the killing.

The knowledge that a bias exists which makes imaginary weapons appear in black hands means that we ought to treat such police claims with utmost scepticism, and question the notion that it is ever necessary to arm those who will make snap decisions based on racism with the capacity to end lives.

3 thoughts on “How V53 might not be a liar (but is still a racist and a murderer)”

  1. Something like this was the subject of a psychology test in the US a while ago. The participants were shown a film of a mugging, and six months later were asked what they remembered. They remembered, with perfect certainty, a white man being mugged by a black man. In the video, a black man was mugged by a white man. Prejudice beats memory any day.

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