Discover more from StopWatch UK newsletter
May 2023: Lies, lies, and more lies
'It's all in the video. They were lying', said a relative of Harvey Evans, 15, who was killed alongside his friend Kyrees Sullivan, 16, in a crash following a police pursuit
This month saw the three-year anniversary of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020, sparking a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US and subsequently worldwide. It was also, as Liverpool Riverside MP Kim Johnson points out in last week’s piece ‘The Police Don’t Care About Ending Institutional Racism’ (Tribune, 24 May), the one-year anniversary of the launch of the National Police Race Action Plan (NPRAP), developed by the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) in response to BLM protests here in the UK. Things don’t seem to have changed much in Minneapolis – there has been no sign of a ‘racial reckoning’ on the part of the authorities since Floyd’s murder (AP News, 26 May) – nor have any of the promises and platitudes made by our own police forces in the wake of BLM been fulfilled. The foreword to the NPRAP declares that the plan (‘and the work that flows from it’) is not just about tackling overt racism on the level of the individual officer, nor is it about simply recruiting more Black staff: ‘It is about looking at how policing works and challenging the policies, procedures, operations and cultures in policing where racism, bias and discrimination exists, so we can ensure there is no longer a debate to be had on policing and institutional racism’ (our emphasis). What we didn’t anticipate at the time – but perhaps we should have – was that the police would ‘ensure there is no longer a debate to be had’ on institutional racism not by initiating any meaningful reform within the organisation, but instead by having the new commissioner of the country’s largest police force disingenuously refuse to engage with the concept at all.
Indeed, rather than taking on board any of the recommendations from the Casey Review, the government instead went ahead with expanding police powers through the Public Order Act, which received Royal Assent on 2 May, with most of its measures coming into force three days before King Charles’s coronation. After the Home Office sent ‘intimidatory’ letters to anti-monarchists planning peaceful protests in advance of the coronation (The Guardian, 2 May) and the Met publicly committed to adopting ‘an extremely low threshold’ when dealing with protestors at the event (Evening Standard, 4 May), it didn’t come as a surprise when the policing of the coronation became a spectacle of alarming authoritarianism as officers pre-emptively arrested dozens of protestors (including some who didn’t even get the chance to make it to the site of the procession, let alone to hold up a placard), one royal super-fan, several volunteers from women’s safety organisation Night Stars, and 14 people attending a seminar on the other side of the city (The Guardian, 21 May), prompting an investigation into the policing of protests by the home affairs select committee (The Guardian, 10 May). Mark Rowley departed from his usual format of LinkedIn blog post to pen a piece in the Evening Standard (4 May) defending the actions of his officers.
Rowley also launched an unprecedented attack on the CPS this month, accusing prosecutors of ‘cherrypicking the easy cases’ to prosecute and failing victims (The Guardian, 18 May). One can’t help but wonder if this kind of lashing out at other criminal justice institutions is in part an attempt to distract from the Met’s perpetual ineptitude: in the last month, the force was found to have ‘lost’ key rape evidence (Evening Standard, 12 May), misreported stats on child strip searches (BBC News, 25 May), and the publication of the Stephen Port report laid out in detail the Met’s ‘calamitous litany of failures’ in relation to the deaths of Port’s four victims (HMICFRS, 27 Apr).
This month at StopWatch, we:
Attended the Alliance for Youth Justice Policing Symposium to discuss police-related issues with like-minded groups
Went to Parliament for the launch of Big Brother Watch’s new report, Biometric Britain, which is well worth a read
Topics in this newsletter include:
The lies and deceit disseminated by the UK’s police forces
Misconduct, misconduct, and a little bit more misconduct
And in Terrible Tech, concerning proposals relating to police use of LFR
Please enjoy our roundup of stories below.
Lies, lies, and more lies: South Wales police and the deaths of Harvey Evans and Kyrees Sullivan
At around 6pm on Monday 22 May, 16-year-old Kyrees Sullivan and 15-year-old Harvey Evans were killed in an e-bike crash in the Ely area of Cardiff. Clashes between residents of the area and the police followed later that evening, apparently in response to the boys’ deaths. The next morning, South Wales police and crime commissioner (PCC), Alun Michael, claimed that the disorder was fuelled by false rumours that there had been a police chase involved in the crash that killed Evans and Sullivan. ‘I think it illustrates the speed which rumours can go round with the activity that goes on social media these days and how things can get out of hand’, the PCC told BBC Radio 4 (The Guardian, 23 May). But later that same day, footage emerged showing a police van following the two boys just minutes before the crash, leading Michael to concede that officers may have pursued the teenagers shortly before they were killed – but, he insisted, no police vehicles were on the road where the fatal crash occurred. He also refused to admit that he was wrong to have initially claimed that no police chase took place (The Guardian, 24 May).
A family member of one of the boys said ‘[The police] originally told our family there was no police vehicle in the area at the time and they didn’t get chased. It’s all in the video. They were lying’. As Eugene K, a regular on the StopWatch blog, wrote in a piece this month titled ‘Tips on how to cover police news properly’, the real version of events emerged thanks to the locals of Ely – in spite of several major news outlets who were ‘all to happy to prostrate themselves before whatever police press release has been shoved under their noses blinding them to the truth’.
And how many times throughout history have we seen this pattern? Too many. Something terrible happens, the police lie about it, mainstream media organisations swallow and regurgitate the police version of events, and then, whether days or decades later, concrete evidence emerges exposing the falsity of the original police narrative. All too often, the evidence contradicting this narrative was out there all along – but the uncritical assumption of the police’s authority and honesty by the mainstream media inhibits them from seeking it out, or from listening to and amplifying the voices of those witnesses and communities striving to contest the police’s account.
As one Twitter user pointed out in the aftermath of the Cardiff teenagers’ deaths, Jean Charles de Menezes didn’t jump the barriers at Stockwell tube station. Deji Omishore wasn’t brandishing a screwdriver when officers Tasered him off a bridge. Two dogs shot by police officers this month (also captured on video) hadn’t viciously attacked a woman in the area. Others joined in with further examples: the police car that followed Chris Kaba before he was shot didn’t activate its lights or sirens, and he was not a suspect. Police officers did not suffer broken bones and serious injuries during the Bristol ‘Kill the Bill’ protests. Drunk Liverpool fans didn’t force their way into the Hillsborough stadium. And as we discussed back in the November newsletter (‘November 2022: Shadowy oversight), even the police watchdog isn’t immune to taking police accounts of events for granted: the IOPC’s predecessor admitted feeding misinformation to the press concerning the death of Mark Duggan in 2011, accepting that it may have ‘inadvertently’ led journalists to believe that Duggan had fired at police officers.
We’re not asking for much from the news media. We’re just asking for a little critical thinking, and at least an attempt at neutrality. As Eugene K suggests, start with the basics: report the facts – don’t report what the police say as fact; be mindful of the language you use – don’t lean into racist or classist tropes or unhelpful sensationalism; and finally, listen to civilian witness accounts that dissent from the police narrative – don’t limit your perspective to that of the enormous state-backed institution notorious for spouting lies and deceit to protect its own fragile reputation.
Deaths from police contact, cases old and new
Robert Evans, 59, was found dead in his home in Liverpool last year after he had been detained by police during a stop and search days earlier. The IOPC has now decided not to take any further action against the seven police officers involved. (Liverpool Echo, 8 May)
The IOPC has launched a criminal investigation into the action of two Met officers following an incident where a man fell from a balcony in Peckham, London, after being Tasered. Both officers have been advised they are under criminal investigation for gross negligence manslaughter. (IOPC, 12 May)
Ronald McArthur, 74, died in a car crash involving a vehicle being pursued by police in King’s Cross, London, in 2019. An IOPC investigation concluded that officers from the Met ‘acted appropriately’ when they followed a vehicle that had failed to stop when requested. (IOPC, 24 May)
Helen Holland, 81, was hit by the a police motorbike on May 10th as it was escorting Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, through London. (BBC News, 24 May)
Two Met officers arrested after woman 'kidnapped, beaten and raped': The serving officers were arrested and suspended from duty after a woman alleged she was kidnapped and raped by the a group of three men, including the two cops. (Mirror, 2 May)
Met stands by officers after man Tasered and two dogs shot dead in London: The Metropolitan police has defended its officers after a suspect was Tasered and two dogs were shot in front of screaming witnesses. (The Guardian, 7 May)
Police should have told woman ex was at her house before stabbing, court finds: Northamptonshire force failed to pass on warning that abusive ex was outside woman’s home before he stabbed her repeatedly. (The Guardian, 9 May)
Met left dozens of documents in locked cabinet instead of passing to inquiry into its own corruption: The revelation relates to 95 pages of documents the force now accepts it should have given to the Daniel Morgan inquiry, investigating the unsolved murder of the private detective and the role corruption played in shielding his killers. (The Guardian, 10 May)
Met officer who left man paralysed after Tasering him while on patrol during lockdown cleared of grievous bodily harm: 23-year-old Jordan Walker-Brown was left with ‘catastrophic’ injuries after being Tasered by PC Imran Mahmood during a patrol in the early months of the first lockdown on May 4 2020. After the verdict, Walker-Brown said ‘I feel like [Mahmood] won before he got here, it’s rigged, I was fighting against something that is bigger than everything’. (The Guardian, 11 May)
Inspector of constabulary accuses forces of ‘downplay[ing] or overstat[ing] their progress’ in update on vetting, misconduct, and misogyny in policing: ‘To varying degrees, [the police forces’ self-assessments submitted] offer assurance that the recommendations are being acted upon. But some responses weren’t detailed enough, and a few forces appeared to have either downplayed or overstated their progress in some areas’, inspectors wrote. (HMICFRS, 11 May)
Met officers kicked and punched Black boy, 14, then lied about it: The officers were dismissed at a gross misconduct hearing which followed an investigation by the IOPC. The CPS, however, declined to press charges against the officers, and the IOPC said it found ‘no evidence’ that the officers’ excessive use of force was because of racism on their part. (Independent, 11 May)
Police chief leading racism plan retires after bullying claims made against him: Tyron Joyce stepped down while deputy chief constable leading police chiefs’ national effort to fix the race crisis plaguing law enforcement. (The Guardian, 15 May)
Sadiq Khan invites Londoners to join new ‘London Policing Board’: London mayor implements one of the Casey Review’s recommendations, with the aim of the new body being to scrutinise reform of the Met. (Mayor of London, 23 May)
West Mercia Police officer joked about ‘blacking up’ and ‘torturing’ colleague, hearing hears: ‘Officer X’, whose identity is protected by an anonymity order, was sacked for sending offensive WhatsApp messages said he was going to ‘black up’ to get a promotion and that he would ‘torture’ a female colleague. (Express & Star, 23 May)
Former PC banned for life from the Met over Wayne Couzens indecent exposure inquiry: Samantha Lee was found guilty of gross misconduct for failing to properly investigate Couzens before he murdered Sarah Everard. (The Guardian, 23 May)
IOPC report finds Wayne Couzens could have been identified as a sex offender in 2015: Wayne Couzens escaped being identified as a sex offender six years before he murdered Sarah Everard, despite police having the registration of a car he had allegedly used to flash passersby, as well as his name and address, an official report has revealed. (IOPC, 23 May; The Guardian, 23 May)
‘Racist’ police ‘pinned Nazi-themed posters on office wall’: ‘Swastika-clad skinheads’ doing Hitler greeting pictured at officers’ workplace, misconduct hearing told. (The Telegraph, 24 May)
Met misreports intimate searches of children: In 2021, the Met Police carried out 269 ‘More Thorough Searches that expose Intimate Parts’ on children. It previously reported the number as 99. (BBC News, 25 May)
Head of Police Scotland admits institutional racism exists in the force: Following the admission, David Threadgold of the Scottish Police Federation, which represents officers, said Scottish police officers had been ‘deeply offended’. (BBC News, 27 May)
Dementia patient, 90, handcuffed and put in spit hood before cops aimed Taser at her: In the aftermath of the restraint in Peckham, London, one officer was suspended and a further five were placed on restricted duties. (The Mirror, 30 May)
Section 60 watch*
Ealing (22 May)
* This is not a comprehensive list
Terrible tech: LFR to be ‘embedded’ in everyday policing
This month, government ministers called for live facial recognition (LFR) tech to be ‘embedded’ in everyday policing, including potentially connecting the tech to officers’ body-worn cameras, despite efforts by campaigners and others to highlight the dangers of the technology. ‘The government’s intentions were revealed in a document produced for the surveillance camera commissioner, discussing changes to the oversight of technology and surveillance’, reported The Guardian (16 May).
Professor Fraser Sampson, the biometrics and surveillance camera commissioner, said that ‘the Orwellian concerns of people, the ability of the state to watch every move, is very real’. LFR was used at King Charles’s coronation earlier this month, with at least 68,000 faces scanned in central London. The government are also looking to remove the requirement for a surveillance camera code of practice and to abolish the role of surveillance camera commissioner altogether through the data protection and information bill (Financial Times, 16 May), which is currently undergoing its third reading in the House of Commons.
StopWatch is a volunteer led organisation that relies on the generosity of trusts and grant funders to operate. We DO NOT accept funding from the government or police as we believe this would compromise our ability to critically challenge.
We’d appreciate any one-off or regular donations to help support our work. You can click on our Donate button below to go through to our donation page.