Police watch

Try as they might to claim that institutionalised police racism and brutality are things of the past, police forces across the country repeatedly demonstrate how much of a lie this is. In recent months news of complaints and investigations has become so frequent it is hard to keep track of and, of course, those incidents which result in official complaints are only the tip of the iceberg. The police are very good at protecting and covering up for themselves: in the past ten years there have been in excess of 2,300 complaints of racism made against Metropolitan Police officers and 120 findings of guilt; however just one officer was dismissed, with six others forced to resign.

Mark Duggan – the cover-up continues

Thirty-one police officers involved in the killing of Mark Duggan in Tottenham, north London, on 4 August 2011, including the gunman who shot him dead, are refusing to be interviewed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), who are investigating the killing. Mark’s death triggered riots throughout London, spreading to cities across England.

Forest Gate police station – riot revenge

The IPCC – itself the subject of controversy and certainly not independent – is continuing to investigate complaints about the conduct of police officers at Forest Gate police station on 11 August 2011, in the aftermath of the uprising. In April 2012, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was compelled to overturn an earlier decision not to prosecute PC Alex McFarlane, after a tape-recording of him and other officers racially abusing Mauro Demetrio and admitting to having strangled him was made public. McFarlane is now being further investigated by the IPCC for arresting Mauro a second time and trying to frame him up on a spurious charge, just hours after he complained to the police about the initial incident.

McFarlane’s colleague PC Joe Harrington has also been charged with assault causing actual bodily harm against 15-year-old Terrelle Ferguson, who was arrested on the same night. Despite the existence of CCTV footage of Harrington kicking and kneeing the handcuffed boy, again the CPS originally did not prosecute, until embarrassed into doing so.

The tip of the iceberg

The IPCC is currently investigating 12 complaints of police racism, including the case of black fireman Edric Kennedy-Macfoy, who was arrested in Harrow in September 2011, whilst off duty, as he tried to assist the police, after a group of people threw things at a police van. He was dragged from his car, violently assaulted and shot with a stun-gun.

A few recent cases which have resulted in convictions (although not in imprisonment) include:

  • On 5 April, PC Philip Juhasz, was convicted of racially aggravated public disorder, after he told a Pakistani worker at a fast-food outlet in Kings Cross station ‘go back to your fucking country’ and other abuse. Uniformed officers on the scene let PC Juhasz – who was off duty and drunk – go, when he showed them his warrant card, and the victim of the abuse was forced to dial 999 for assistance.
  • On 20 April, Merseyside police cadet Amy Graham pleaded guilty to offences under the Communications Act, after using Twitter to send out a torrent of racist abuse against Muslims.
  • On 19 May Scotland Yard special constable Luke Smith was fined for shouting racial abuse at a rail worker after being accused of fare-dodging on a train from Sussex to London.

Racism inside the police force

Even within their own ranks, police racism is widespread, and those who complain about it risk further victimisation and having their lives wrecked. In April, Sultan Alam, a former traffic officer with Cleveland Police, who was racially abused by his colleagues and imprisoned for 18 months for a crime he did not commit, was awarded £840,000 in compensation. According to The Guardian, Mr Alam ‘lost his marriage, health, reputation and career as a result of the actions of several officers from the force’. Earlier this year, Cleveland police admitted malicious prosecution and misfeasance in public office during a hearing at Leeds crown court.

Sultan Alam’s ordeal began with a series of racist incidents, which culminated in a Ku Klux Klan poster being left on his desk. When he then started legal action against the police force for race discrimination, his colleagues conspired to have him convicted of conspiracy to steal car parts. None of the four officers who stitched him up have been tried for their actions and one is still a serving police officer.

Not all in it together

On 10 May, as the Public and Commercial Services union staged a 24-hour strike in protest against changes to pension arrangements, 30,000 off-duty police officers marched through London, protesting about pensions, cuts in the policing budget and privatisation plans. Despite both events opposing public sector cuts, the police cannot simply hide their true function as the ruling class’s paid racist thugs and boot-boys and expect to move from violently attacking protesters one day to protesting themselves the next, without being challenged. When the two marches met one another at Parliament Square, a section of the civil servants’ protest turned on the police, shouting ‘remember the miners’ and chanting the names of Jean Charles de Menezes, Mark Duggan, Harry Stanley and others murdered by the police.

Nicki Jameson

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 227 June/July 2012