October 2021: 'Worryingly opaque'
Former prime minister / home secretary criticises lack of police transparency, more atrocious stories about police treatment of women surface
As we creep further into the autumn months, we do hope you are keeping safe and warm as the temperature drops and COVID-19 cases rise again.
Policing-wise, the political climate is already ice cold, with more stories and troubling facts surfacing about the police’s treatment of women to the extent that even the home secretary is annoyed with a certain police chief she just grudgingly extended a contract for… 👀
In fact, a series of Savanta: ComRes polls found that the majority of people did not think the police were doing enough to protect women, in addition to having a problem with racism and nearly half of them believing they had a problem with antisemitism. Oh, and a class bias.
On the racism issue, our research and policy manager Habib Kadiri said:
The survey findings will come as no surprise to anyone who has witnessed how street policing affects those communities. We are painfully aware of the fact that the actions of the most violent policing units in the country are driven by deeply entrenched stereotypes of who Black and Brown people are and what they do.
Meanwhile, StopWatch is continuing to push against the worst effects of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 as it rolls on through parliament. We attended a roundtable hosted by Lord Dholakia, with representatives from Amnesty International, Liberty, Unjust, and the National Black Police Association, to persuade peers about the dangers of the Bill for ethnic minorities.
One of our founder / trustees spoke to Herbert Smith Freehills about StopWatch’s history and how stop and search policy has developed since our inception in 2010.
And we have a new donation page! More on which at the end of the newsletter (if you can’t wait to give though, you can click on the donate button here)
Topics in this newsletter include:
Police insist we should ‘trust the process’ in the face of mounting evidence of maltreatment of women
It’s been a year since Lamont Roper’s death, and the United Families & Friends Campaign (UFFC) hold their annual march to commemorate and demand justice for all those killed in police custody
And former police chiefs write to the home secretary warning that the PCSC Bill will exacerbate racial bias in policing and the criminal justice system while failing to tackle serious violence
Please enjoy our roundup of stories below.
Police to women: ‘TrUst thE pRoCeSs’
Police forces’ reactions to significant events involving high-profile cases of femicide (Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, Sarah Everard, Sabine Nessa) seems to have triggered journalistic interest in the question of whether women can trust the police. So, what did they find?
The Independent – More than 750 Met Police employees have faced sexual misconduct allegations since 2010 – with just 83 sacked: The sexual misconduct allegations – 88% of which were made against officers – include accusations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape and using a position of power for sexual gain (30 Sep)
BBC News UK Police face hundreds of sexual assault complaints: At least 750 allegations of sexual misconduct were made against serving police officers across Britain over five years, new figures show (11 Oct)
Sky News – Big rise in police officers reported for abusing their role for sexual purposes: From 2018 to 2021, 66 officers and members of police staff faced disciplinary proceedings for alleged ‘abuse of position for a sexual purpose’ or APSP. Of those, 42 occurred in the past year (26 Oct)
Seems the answer is a resounding ‘no, women cannot, in fact, trust the police’.
We must remember that behind every data point is a story, too many of which do not see justice for the victims. Some stories are also incredible, in the worst sense (The Independent, 18 Oct):
The Metropolitan police shared the full personal details of a woman who complained about a male officer’s aggression when arresting a vulnerable female with that officer – including her home address.
The 36-year-old, from Lewisham, south London, witnessed the caution and arrest of a woman and her partner following a suspected incidence of domestic violence in June.
The IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct) passed her complaint to the Metropolitan police to handle. The woman received a letter later in June confirming that her concerns would be looked into, and confirming that the force had ‘also sent a copy of our record to the police officer(s), who is/are the subject of your complaint’. That record included the complainant’s full contact details.
The woman called to express her concern about the sharing of her personal data, but the professional standards officer at that office told her that standard procedures had been followed.
She eventually spoke with the officer’s line manager but said she was met with little understanding over her fears, and was reassured the officer in question was ‘a very reasonable guy’.
The Met also believed the case to be ‘an isolated incident’, but as a defence, relegating the issue of civilian safety from one of police sexism to police incompetence is not a good look.
Neither is the closed ranks approach to misconduct hearings, so says a former home secretary and prime minister (Press Gazette, 12 Oct). Theresa May responded to analysis by The Times (£wall) which found that, of more than 40 misconduct outcome notices published relating to officers and staff in England and Wales in the past month, almost half were anonymised:
It is immensely disappointing to learn that more than six years on [from the introduction of the measures], a number of police forces appear unwilling to open themselves up to scrutiny.
According to the results of this investigation, too many hearings are still being held in private and the process of notifying the public of the results of those hearings is still worryingly opaque.
It leaves the impression that the police, whose job it is to protect the public, are prioritising the reputation of the institution over the delivery of justice.
Predictably, Met police chief Cressida Dick announced an investigation into her force’s standards and culture quicker than you can say ‘review’ (Financial Times, 05 Oct, £wall). Meanwhile, reforms have been suggested, few of which will be implemented and fewer still will make any positive difference to policing operations or women’s safety (see: identity confirmation for plain-clothes officers).
Identifying failures and proposing ineffectual reforms (including awareness training) is a process we’ve seen so often before that it resembles an industry of phantom progress, one that is being called out more often these days by those who demand real change from the police (Glamour Magazine; The Guardian, 01 Oct).
One woman who is exasperated over the lack of progress made by the Met police in particular is *checks notes* Priti Patel. According to The Times (10 Oct, £wall), the home secretary ‘believes Scotland Yard is rotten from top to bottom’ and has plans to ‘bring Britain’s largest police force under greater political control’.
We’ll be interested to see what this could mean for the fate of the country’s biggest police force, but while we gear up for an epic battle between an unstoppable force and an immovable object, we remain sceptical that it will result in a shift towards decentring the police’s role in minimising societal harm.
Deaths from police contact, cases old and new
INQUEST marks the first anniversary of the death of Lamont Roper, a young black man who died during a police pursuit in Tottenham, London (07 Oct).
The inquest into Lamont’s death was opened by HM Senior Coroner for North London last year and the final hearing is due to take place between 22 and 30 November 2021. Some of the officers involved in the pursuit had activated their body worn video cameras but one year later the family have still not been provided with access to the footage by the police. It is of particular concern to the family that the police officer did not activate his camera during the pursuit.
An ex-soldier who died after being tasered by officers ‘suffered a campaign of harassment’ by police in the years leading up to his death, according to his father.
Platoon sergeant Spencer Beynon from Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, died after Dyfed-Powys police officers responded to a report from a neighbour on 14 June 2016 of a man walking down a road barefoot holding a cannabis pipe, and found Mr Beynon in a nearby street with a neck wound.
He collapsed after being hit with a TASER, with officers claiming they had deployed the weapon after he had shown ‘aggression’ towards them (BBC News Wales, 07 Oct).
A man carrying an axe who was fatally shot by police was unlawfully killed, an inquest jury has ruled (BBC News, 15 Oct). Lewis Skelton was shot twice in a Hull street in November 2016 after he failed to respond to police instructions to stop.
His family said the jury's decision confirmed what they had always known, that ‘the killing of Lewis was wrong’. Humberside police said it was ‘disappointed’ with the conclusion.
A jury has returned a critical narrative conclusion at the inquest into the death of Shane Bryant, finding that aspects of the force used to restrain him were unreasonable and contributed to his death (INQUEST, 26 Oct). They also found missed opportunities by the off duty police officer in managing the ongoing restraint contributed to his death.
Shane Bryant died following restraint by Leicestershire police and members of the public on the night of 13 July 2017. He was apprehended as he tried to flee the scene of an attempted robbery of a shop. At one point he was restrained in the dangerous prone position, and for a period of minutes, Shane was held in a neck-lock by the retired officer. Then for several minutes more, he was held with his upper body in a ‘ground-pin’ and his legs locked in a ‘figure of four’. After around 10 minutes of prone restraint, Leicestershire police arrived. Shane was handcuffed, and arm and leg restraint straps were applied. Shane was left in a prone position for around a further five minutes after handcuffs were applied. It was only when he was formally arrested that he was discovered to be unresponsive. Paramedics began CPR before Shane was taken to hospital at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, where he was pronounced dead on 15 July 2017.
Chad Allford died in hospital after becoming unwell while being detained by police (BBC News Derby, 28 Oct).
Officers visited an address in Morewood Drive, Alfreton, just before 5pm on Wednesday, where they found and held Allford. At some stage he was taken to hospital, where he later died. The force said they had referred themselves to the IOPC, which is investigating the matter.
United Families & Friends Campaign (UFFC)
On 30 October, the UFFC – a coalition of families and those affected by deaths in UK police, prison, immigration and psychiatric custody – held their annual march to commemorate and demand justice for all those killed in police custody. The event was well attended and covered, and involved contributions from friends and relatives of those killed. Journalist Damien Gayle captured some highlights, including a powerful testimony from Ajibola Lewis of the events leading to the death of her son Seni Lewis.
Victory for Spycops victim: An environmental activist who was deceived into a nearly two-year relationship with an undercover officer who was spying on her has won a landmark case against the Met police for breaches of her human rights (ITV News, 30 Sep).
Radical thinking on ‘security’: It’s time to rethink what ‘security’ means for us all, in context of how policing has failed the powerless in society, writes Nesrine Malik (The Guardian, 04 Oct).
Police abuses of power, nothing new under the sun: The circumstances surrounding the murder of Sarah Everard and the subsequent response from the Met have proved grim case studies in the lethal potential of giving the police practically unfettered powers, writes Aviah Sarah Day (iNews, 05 Oct).
SVRO guidance released: Draft guidance for measures contained in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 now published; includes draft guidance on Serious Violence Reduction Orders (Home Office, 20 Oct)
More powers to harass people of colour: Former police chiefs have written to home secretary Priti Patel warning that measures aimed at overhauling the criminal justice system have ‘dangerous implications for the fight against serious violence’ (The Times, 25 Oct, £wall).
The group claims that the proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill could ‘undermine the work police colleagues are doing to prevent and reduce serious violence, and put already marginalised communities at further risk of harm’.
Signatories include Lord Paddick, the former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, and Leroy Logan, the former Met superintendent who was a founding member and first chairman of the National Black Police Association.
On stop and search, the group wrote that ‘when stop-and-search powers are misused, they can be counterproductive, a waste of time and resources and, most importantly, damage relationships between the police and the public.’
It added that provisions for a ‘suspicionless stop-and-search power’ would ‘roll back some of the progress that has been made in trying to address the issue of racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system’.
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Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham (01 Oct)
* This is not a comprehensive list
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