September 2022: Same rot, different skin
New Met officer gives every indication that there will be no let up in the denial of institutional racism and sexism within the force. Elsewhere: more cops behaving badly
It’s been just 19 days since Sir Mark Rowley took over as commissioner of the Metropolitan police. Rowley’s tenure has begun at a time when public confidence and trust in the Met couldn’t be lower: there’s no need to rehearse the litany of ‘systemic’ failings and abuses of power that prompted HMCFRS to place the Met in ‘special measures’ back in July; and the fatal shooting of yet another young unarmed Black man, Chris Kaba, was rightfully met with public protests and demands for justice, accountability, and change.
In an article published on LinkedIn earlier this week, Rowley claimed that he ‘will be ruthless at rooting out from this organisation the corrupting officers including racists and misogynists’; that he wants ‘to hear from those [the Met] have let down’ and ‘to search for a meaningful partnership with those who will speak truth to power and help us reform’. But if he can’t even bring himself to name the problem – that the Metropolitan Police Service is still as institutionally racist as it was in 1999 – how does he expect us to believe that he’s serious about actually tackling it?
Over the past month at StopWatch…
The team from our London girls and young women’s research project have been working on a podcast series, as the Liverpool team continue their research training and the Nottingham team prepare to get started
We’ve published another police powers factsheet explaining the difference between ‘stop and search’ and ‘stop and account’ (thread of all our factsheets here)
Detailed planning for our Rights and Wellbeing (RAW) festival weekend on the 3rd and 4th of December is underway – save the date!
Topics in this newsletter include:
The fatal shooting of Chris Kaba by a Met police firearms officer in Streatham
The first few days of Sir Mark Rowley’s tenure as Met commissioner
A disturbing number of cases of police officers’ abuse towards their partners, their colleagues, and members of the public
Three PEEL inspection reports published this month: Staffordshire Police, Northumbria Police, and the Met (spoiler: it’s not looking good for any of them)
Please enjoy our roundup of stories below.
New Met commissioner keen to make a mark
Who is Sir Mark Rowley?
Rowley began his policing career fresh out of university in 1987 at the West Midlands police, after being rejected from the Metropolitan police on account of his poor eyesight (BBC News, 12th Sep). In 2014, he began a four-year period as head of counterterrorism at the Met, and was knighted in 2018 ‘for his exceptional contribution to national security and national leadership at a time of unprecedented threat’ (Home Office, 8th Jul). After a stint in consultancy and having co-written a crime novel, he has now returned to the Met as commissioner, taking office on the 12th September: exactly one week before the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II – ‘the biggest security challenge of its kind the UK has every faced’ (The Guardian, 12th Sep) – and exactly one week after the fatal police shooting of 24-year-old Chris Kaba.
The Cambridge University maths graduate is known for being particularly into technology, apparently going ‘gooey-eyed’ in its presence, and takes ‘a keen interest in IT and the opportunities for law enforcement to use data science’ (The Spectator, 9th Jul). On his first day as commissioner, 14 campaign groups – including Big Brother Watch, Liberty, and UKBLM – wrote to Rowley calling on him to end the use of ‘privacy-eroding, inaccurate and wasteful’ live facial recognition technology (The Independent, 12th Sep); while Griff Ferris of Fair Trials highlighted the role that this ‘authoritarian and dangerous new data-driven strand of policing’ played in Chris Kaba’s death (Novara Media, 14th Sep).
Former colleagues have described 57-year-old Rowley as ‘tougher than he looks’ (BBC News, 12th Sep) but have also said that ‘He listens […] He genuinely wants people’s ideas and then takes decisions’ (The Spectator, 9th Jul). The question is, who is he willing to listen to? Less than three weeks into the job, Rowley has already faced criticism for reportedly rejecting a request for an urgent meeting with Andy George, President of the National Black Police Association (The Guardian, 25th Sep). Speaking to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 earlier this week, Rowley dismissed this as ‘nonsense’, saying ‘I’ve had a fairly busy first couple of weeks with the state funeral and a few other events, as you’ll appreciate’ (The Guardian, 27th Sep).
‘A few other events’ seems like a pretty dismissive (and frankly, offensive) way to describe the Met’s inadequate response to the fatal shooting of Chris Kaba and the disturbingly overzealous policing of anti-monarchy protestors (The Guardian, 12th Sep), both of which remind us that no matter who’s in charge, policing is fundamentally about the maintenance and the reproduction of a particular social order. In his LinkedIn post, titled ‘Bringing the outside in, to get change right’, Rowley wrote that ‘Constructive anger, channelled in the right ways, can bring positive change’. But who gets to decide what the ‘right ways’ are to channel the valid outrage and disgust of communities who are consistently subjected to police violence and abuse?
The killing of Chris Kaba – and the state’s response
Just over three weeks ago, 24-year-old award-winning music artist and expectant father Chris Kaba was killed by a single shot fired by a Met firearms officer through the windscreen of the car Chris was driving . The car had been flagged by police ANPR, leading officers to pursue the vehicle before performing a ‘controlled stop’ in Streatham Hill. 11 hours passed before Chris’s family was told of his death, and a whole week before the firearms officer who fired the shot was suspended. Protests were held around the UK in memory of Chris, ‘a father-to-be, a fiancé, an eldest child, a joker, a dancer and rapper’ (gal-dem, 26th Sep).
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) confirmed that no firearm was found in the car Chris had been driving, and subsequently launched a homicide investigation. Chris’s cousin Jefferson Bosela, who has taken on the role of spokesperson for the family and is leading the Justice for Chris Kaba campaign, has been sharply critical of both the Met and the IOPC, saying the latter’s response has lacked urgency (The Guardian, 17th Sep).
Firearms officers reportedly threatened to ‘hand in their weapons in protest’ at the overdue decision to suspend the officer who shot Chris Kaba (The Telegraph, 13th Sep), or to pull a phrase from our director Deborah Sangster (The Justice Gap, 16th Sep):
… unless they are given the green light to shoot unarmed Black men, and allowed to do so with no accountability trained firearms officers are threatening to ‘quiet quit’ […] I for one would welcome this threatened exodus of trained firearms officers; it may save a young black man’s life.
Rowley dismissed these reports as ‘nonsense’, too.
On the 21st, Chris Kaba’s family had a meeting with Rowley and the director general of the IOPC, where they were shown the bodycam footage of the incident (The Guardian, 21st Sep). The meeting lasted just 25 minutes. After viewing the footage, the family released a statement saying: ‘The facts of this case demand urgent accountability and the family therefore await regular meaningful updates on the investigation and the progress towards a charging decision’ (INQUEST, 22nd Sep).
Since then, the charity INQUEST has asked the UN to consider the death of Chris Kaba – as well as the death of Oladeji Omishore who fell into the Thames after being Tasered by police – as part of its global investigation into police brutality and racism (The Guardian, 25th Sep). Neither home secretary Suella Braverman nor new prime minister Liz Truss have commented on the case, nor have they made any attempt to contact Kaba’s family to date. The inquest into the shooting opens next week.
Racism and the future of the Met: plus ça change?
So, will the new leadership of Mark Rowley make a difference to Chris Kaba’s family’s pursuit of justice? To the racism pervasive throughout the Met? To the experiences of Black people, and other minoritised groups, and their interactions with officers on the streets of London? Or, as UKBLM put it, will Black people be left wondering ‘who’s next?’ (13th Sep)
Well, despite claiming that he will take a zero-tolerance approach to racism within the force, everything we’ve heard from Rowley so far (including his LinkedIn post) shows that he clearly views the problem through a ‘bad apple’ lens, with individual officers who selfishly ‘undermine the honest and dedicated majority who determinedly serve the public’ ruining the reputation of the Met by being racist, misogynistic, and homophobic on an individual level. His refusal to accept the use of the term ‘institutional racism’ is further proof of this, as is the claim that he will be able to ‘root out […] corrupting officers’ and therefore ‘fix’ racism in the Met simply by taking a harsher line against certain officers. We know that thinking about racism in these terms alone is both useless and dishonest.
Worse still, this isn’t the first time Rowley has been in a situation like this. When the news broke that Rowley was set to take on the role of commissioner, a video clip of Rowley from 2014 following the conclusion of the inquest into the death of Mark Duggan re-emerged online. Duggan was a young Black man, who was shot by firearms officers in 2011, igniting a period of civil unrest that came to be known as the ‘2011 London (England) riots’. Before his time as head of counter-terror, Rowley’s ‘most prominent appearance came on the steps of [the] Royal Courts of Justice in 2014 after an inquest jury found the shooting of Mark Duggan lawful’ (i News, May 2017). The cries of Mark Duggan’s family and their supporters drowned out Rowley’s attempt to read his statement. UKBLM have already drawn parallels between the media coverage of Mark Duggan’s personal history and that of Chris Kaba, as did Black writer, abolitionist, and Sisters Uncut activist Shanice Octavia McBean:
Four days before her resignation as home secretary, Priti Patel wrote to Rowley, saying that the Met must learn from the ‘appalling mistakes of the past’ (Home Office, 2nd Sep). So far, it looks like he’s already repeating them.
Deaths from police contact, cases old and new
The unarmed 24-year-old Black man was fatally shot by a Met firearms officer on 5th September. The family were not told of his death for 11 hours, and it took a week before the officer involved was suspended. The inquest into his death will begin on 4th October (The Guardian, 12th Sep).
Died in 2019 after being restrained by officers during an arrest. The jury at the inquest into the death listened to footage of an officer saying ‘He’s currently on the floor playing the whole poor me poor me; he’s going to have to go to hospital though as a matter of course. […] He’s saying he has chest pains he can’t breathe blah blah; it’s a load of nonsense but there we go’. The officer has not apologised to McDonald-Taylor’s family, who are now calling for his suspension (Evening Standard, 28th Sep).
The former professional football player died in 2016, at the age of 48, after being tasered by PC Benjamin Monk for 33 seconds (six times longer than is standard), who then ‘kicked him at least twice with such force that his bootlaces left an imprint on his forehead’. Monk received an 8-year prison sentence for manslaughter – ‘the first time in 35 years that a police officer has been found guilty over a death in the line of duty’. A second officer, Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, who struck Atkinson three times with a baton, was acquitted on Wednesday, meaning the case can now be fully reported (The Guardian, 28th Sep).
Still ‘no answers’ for the family of Liam Allan, who drowned in the Thames last month after being placed under arrest by Met police officers. (ITV News, 31st Aug)
The inquest into the death of Yassar Yaqub, shot dead by police in Yorkshire in 2017, is ongoing. Yaqub was killed by an officer who fired three shots from an unmarked police car, with two bullets hitting Yaqub in the chest (The Guardian, 20th Sep).
Tales of hypocrisy and excess:
Officers left a grandfather in his 80s battered and bruised in the middle of the night after they approached the wrong address when responding to a call (BBC News, 5th Sep).
Former sergeant ‘who kicked a girl’s head like a football and pepper sprayed a vulnerable prisoner in the face’ should have been sacked, tribunal decides—had he not retired before a disciplinary hearing could be concluded (The Argus, 7th Sep).
Met Police commander who wrote the force’s drug strategy ‘smoked cannabis daily’ and tried to resign on the spot when asked to take a drug test (The Guardian, 2nd Sep).
Cops abusing their partners: More than 170 serving Met officers are currently under investigation for alleged domestic abuse, figures from City Hall show (Evening Standard, 1st Sep).
Andy Gardner (Leicestershire police) – hacked his girlfriend’s social media accounts; sentenced to community service and a restraining order (Leicester Live, 6th Sep). Michael John Parker (North Yorkshire police) – convicted of coercive and controlling behaviour and stalking; sentenced to two and a half years in jail (North Yorkshire Police, 9th Sep).
George Georgiou (Cambridgeshire police), sentenced to community service and 18 months in prison, suspended for two years, for what the judge described as a ‘drip, drip of offences’, ‘telling [the victim] that if she reported it no one would believe her as you were a police officer’ (ITV News, 20th Sep).
Cops abusing their colleagues: Hafeez Javeed (Berkshire police) given ‘final warning’ after inappropriately touching a female colleague (Berkshire Live, 6th Sep).
Senior officers Mark Budden and Paul Staniforth (Gwent police) sacked following ‘inappropriate behaviour’ at retirement party – a third officer, Mark Warrender, would also have been sacked had he not retired before the end of the disciplinary hearing (a recurring theme, it seems) (The Guardian, 7th Sep).
Andy Whitworth and Gary Sims (British Transport Police) – sacked after slapping a female colleague’s bottom and pinching another female colleague’s bottom in Derby (Derbyshire Live, 14th Sep).
Luis Tickner (Met police), accused of sexual misconduct, told a female colleague ‘if you’re asleep you can’t say no’ and tried to prevent her from leaving his home after she refused to have sex with him (Daily Mail, 28th Sep).
Cops abusing the members of the public they’re supposed to be protecting: Callum McLennan (Northumbria police) – guilty of gross misconduct for ‘abusing his position for a sexual purpose’ in relation to a vulnerable woman he met while dealing with a domestic abuse incident (Sunderland Echo, 6th Sep).
Shaun Wheeler (Lincolnshire police), who ‘abused his powers for sexual purposes’ (IOPC, 8th Sep).
Hussain Chehab (Met police), charged with 13 different sexual offences including distributing indecent images of a child and sexual activity with a schoolgirl (Essex Live, 15th Sep).
Thomas Daley (Kent police) – charged with misconduct in public office and is alleged to have pursued a sexual relationship with a woman he came into contact with during the course of his duties (IOPC, 20th Sep).
Daniel Nash (Derbyshire police), who used his position as a police officer to prey on vulnerable women (including crime victims and suspects) – charged with a total of 13 counts of misconduct (ITV News, 20th Sep).
2021-22 PEEL assessments of Staffordshire Police, Northumbria Police, and the Met published: Inspectors criticised both Staffordshire police and the Met (which has the highest stop and search rate in England and Wales) for their stop and search practices and data recording; unsurprisingly, all three forces were criticised for how they respond to the public. The Met was judged ‘good’ or ‘adequate’ in just three areas, with everything else ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ (the two lowest possible gradings), while Staffordshire was rated ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ in every category but one. The Met and Staffordshire Police were both placed in ‘special measures’ back in July.
Click on the logo below to read more stories from the Institute of Race Relations Register of Racism and Resistance.
Section 60 watch*
Greenwich (28 Sep)
Reading (17 Sep)
* This is not a comprehensive list
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