Screen shot of Forensic Architecture video detailing their findings following an analysis of the 2011 British police killing of Mark Duggan.

Forensic Architecture Probe into Police Killing of Mark Duggan May Reopen Case

On August 4, 2011, Mark Duggan, a twenty-nine-year-old black man, was shot dead by British police in the Tottenham neighborhood of north London, inciting the largest riots in England’s modern history. On January 8, 2014, an inquest jury found that the killing was lawful. The verdict was contested by Duggan’s family, whose lawyers commissioned Forensic Architecture—a collective known for investigating human rights violations, and that often shows its work in art institutions—to look into the case and help challenge the conclusions reached by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The collective’s findings—which were published in The Guardian on Wednesday—may prompt authorities to officially reopen the case.

Since the Turner Prize–nominated research agency began looking into Duggan’s death in 2018, its mix of artists, journalists, researchers, software developers, and video-game tech specialists, as well as professionals from other industries, worked on reconstructing his fatal encounter with police through data from hundreds of publicly available documents including witness statements, police testimonies, and expert reports. Forensic Architecture also returned to the site of the incident on Ferry Lane—where Duggan was pulled over in a “hard stop” by eleven officers and shot twice—and took photographs in order to build a 3-D model of the scene using photogrammetry.

Through the use of this technology, the group raised questions regarding crucial testimony about one officer’s claim that he saw Duggan holding a gun, which was later found seven meters away. Forensic Architecture also asserts that the IPCC’s declaration of the killing as lawful was in part based on unreliable footage captured by a witness from a nearby building. The researchers determined that, because of a gap in the fifteen minutes of footage that was not previously identified, as well as the low resolution of the footage, the IPCC misread the evidence. Forensic Architecture also argues that the possibility that the police moved the firearm, which the IPCC originally stated was thrown by Duggan as he was shot, was never investigated. Despite being in close proximity to Duggan, none of the police officers recall seeing him toss a gun.

In a statement issued by the IPCC, the organization said that Forensic Architecture provided the organization with their technical analyses in February and that members of the police watchdog “are now reviewing them in line with our reopening policy and new statutory power to reopen investigations if there are compelling reasons to do so. We will make our decision in due course and appreciate Forensic Architecture providing the expert reports and discussing their work with us.”

Forensic Architecture’s findings, first presented publicly in Tottenham in November 2019, were also used to help the family negotiate an out-of-court financial settlement with the Metropolitan Police earlier that year. The decision to publish their analyses of the investigation was made amid one of the largest global uprisings against police violence, sparked in the United States after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by the police in Minneapolis last month. Protests against police brutality have also evolved into campaigns to bring down white supremacist monuments, defund and dismantle the police, and rethink public safety.