Today's news has been full of the ugly face of racism in Newham's police, following the report in the Guardian about a young black man who recorded officers racially abusing him after he was stopped in Beckton.
This case first came to light with a press release from the Independent Police Complaints Commission on 14 September last year, after which Newham Monitoring Project contacted the young man and have been supporting him ever since. His case has attracted publicity now because of the disgraceful decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to bring no action against the officers whose abuse had been captured on the victim's mobile phone.The Director of Public Prosecutions has now agreed to review this decision after the threat of a judicial review from the lawyers NMP arranged for him. One officer, named as PC Alex MacFarlane, has been suspended.
The incident itself took place on Thursday 11 August, at a time when police officers had flooded the streets to enforce a crackdown in the aftermath of London's riots. However, the young man's car had been stopped at 6pm in a quiet street close to the Asda in Beckton and he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs. He was taken to Forest Gate Police Station but no further action was taken against him for the suspected driving offence. The abuse he recorded took place in the back of the police van.
A spokesperson for Newham Monitoring Project gave the following comment:
Newham Monitoring Project has made the point that at times of increased tension, it is always black communities who seem to face the most repressive policing. With 12000 police officers again flooding the streets this summer for the Olympics, the failure of the CPS to send a message that racist policing will not be tolerated is astonishing - especially after the imprisonment of Liam Stacey for posting offensive comments on Twitter, when a senior CPS lawyer said "racist language is inappropriate in any setting" and cited the case as a warning to others.
"After years of re-branding its poor reputation on racial equality, the culture of racism within the Metropolitan police is still deeply embedded. Sadly, the shocking treatment of this young man at the hands of police officers, both the physical brutality he describes and the racial abuse he suffered are by no means unusual and quite illustrative of other reports we have received.
The CPS’ refusal to prosecute individual officers where such damning evidence of racial abuse exists is inexcusable. It is hard to think of what stronger proof could be provided and their failure to take action re-enforces the view that the police are still largely above the law.
NMP is calling for a far more robust approach from the CPS and for CCTV cameras to be placed in the back of all police vans. It says that without changes of this kind, people stopped by the police have no choice but to to take the risk of recording the police, even if this invites further assault and abuse. As their spokesperson said, "it's rare to capture and preserve evidence of this kind, it is highly risky and we commend the young man’s quick thinking and courage."