Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Another day another death by cop

Today's Daily Mirror highlights the case of Frank Ogboru who was murdered by the police in 2006 and the courts have simply let them walk away.

What's clear from the report is that Ogboru was completely calm and presented no threat to the police. They only decided to arrest him when they said he had to leave the place he was temporarily staying on his visit to England, which had all of his things. He was sprayed with cs gas in order to handcuff him, despite the fact he does not seem to have resisted arrest and was then restrained by four police officers who held him face down. Caught on film one officer's knee is over Mr Ogboru's neck while his head hangs over the kerb. Despite his cries they continued to restrain this man who had committed no offence.

One witness said at the time “First there were two officers, then four, then more,” she said. “It was like they were squashing him. They were pinning him down and handcuffing him. I saw officers with their knees on him and their feet on him. He was just wailing - the kind of sound a dog would make if it was kicked. I thought there were too many of them on him.”

These officers will not face prosecution or disciplinary charges despite being caught on film and being seen by dozens of witnesses. Unfortunately this is not the first nor the last time that the Met police will kill unnecessarily. According to the Mirror there have been 501 deaths in custody in ten years - the number of prosecutions? Zero. That's right my friends, zero.

As the London Green Manifesto (pdf) states in its introduction to the policing section;

Fear of crime is common among Londoners today - and sometimes fear of terrorism. Recorded crime is declining, yet fear of crime remains high. Greens seek both to minimise risk and address the underlying causes of crime and violence. London’s extreme rich-poor divide and social exclusion may contribute to the conditions in which anti-social behaviour can prevail or serious lawlessness fester.

Police racism has not been properly addressed, leaving many Londoners suspicious of the police and poorly protected from crime. The police will only gain the trust of the community if they become representative, accountable and approachable.
They often say the police have rooted out much of their racism - and I want to believe them, I can't believe things are as bad as the seventies - but the evidence points to a very disturbing story of an unaccountable police force who can and do use lethal force without fear of having to properly account for their actions. There's a long way to go before we have truly accountable law enforcement agencies and with Sir Ian Blair still in charge of the Met, still complicit in shielding his men from the consequences of the deaths they cause, there is little hope that things are about to start changing anytime soon.

So will Boris Johnson's new "Deputy Mayor for policing" Kit Malthouse (welcoming us, right) address this situation? According to his publicity he thinks "We are all British, all Londoners, and all different, in that order" in a rant against multiculturalism - well actually it is not factually accurate to say we are all British is it? Some of us aren't British, just living in London doesn't miraculously mean you are British, but you should still be protected by the police rather than killed by them, as Ogboru was.

Kit's actually an interesting appointment because he thinks that "the roots of crime lie in childhood and particularly the early and teen years... The long-term solution lies in effective street based deterrent policing hand in hand with investment in our education system". Boris' top man on crime thinks it's all about schooling? Well, that's slightly better than the home secretary I suppose.

But as to making the police accountable for their actions - his position is less obvious. The "lines of accountability need to be made clear... [but] the police need a better deal from Politicians and the public."

I suspect this is not a man who'll take a strong line with the police when they "step out of line" (ie kill innocent people), after all he voted to defend Sir Ian over his handling of the shooting of Jean Charles - it's difficult to see quite what the police have to do in order to be brought to book.
hat tip The Void and Dave Hill

No comments: