London: Hannah Chowdhry an Essex and Redbridge Youth Councillor warns that black men are being unfairly targeted by police stop and searches, as current police data reveals that searches of white and Asian men has a higher yield of success.
The death of George Floyd, a 44-year-old Afro-American, while being arrested by Minneapolis Police was internationally condemned for the exhibited police brutality in videos, that were shared across social media. For 8 minutes and 46 seconds, a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee to the neck of Mr Floyd who was lying face-down and who was already handcuffed with his hands to the rear. Two other police officers were involved in restraining Mr Floyd in this vulnerable position, while another watched guard, as bystanders asked for Floyd to be released from the awkward and dangerous position.
Alarmingly, even when being implored to release George Floyd by those watching and filming the incident, police officers ignored the public's distress. Moreover, all four police officers failed to take any notice of Floyd's appeals that he could not breathe or to react to requests by the assembled public for Floyd's pulse to be checked when he became motionless.
BACA supporters have mixed views of what has manifested in both the incident and in the numerous protests and riots across the globe. Some believe the incident highlights concerns about US police brutality and unwarranted arrest techniques. They draw on factors such as the death of Tony Timpa in similar circumstances in 2016, a white man who was held down by police officers in a similar position for 13 minutes. A video of the incident can be seen on the Dallas TV footage within this article in the Guardian (click here). Though investigated the police involved in the incident returned to duty within a month, after a judge decided that there was no chance of success with a prosecution. Furthermore, It took three years for the footage from Police body cams to be released, due to resistance from police and state authorities. Arguably, the restraining techniques used by police during the Timpa incident should have been reviewed and altered or removed after his death. However, for all intents and purposes it seems no police department made any changes.
The fact that two Filipino police officers were involved in the incident has also been used to deflect any racism within the arrest procedure adopted by the officers involved. Albeit that the Filipino officers were rookies and Tou Thao who can be seen guarding the scene simply seems to be following orders and guarding the arrest scene.
In a marked change in policy, all four police officers were fired from the police force the day after the death of Floyd. Moreover, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter immediately - though only days later his charges were increased to second-degree murder. Chauvin is now being held in a state prison while he awaits trial. Having not initially been charged, the other three men have since been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
There have been numerous incidents where race and police brutality have been linked in allegations made by the families of the victims. None more so than in the killing of Rayshard Brooks (27 yrs) last Friday (click here)- only days after the murder of George Floyd. CBS News have aired the evidence from a Police camera that shows that Brooks was running away from police and shot in the back twice. Brooks had shot a taser that he wrestled away during a scuffle between two police officers arresting him, but the news anchor explained that a Taser is not considered a lethal weapon and by having the car of the suspect, there was no need for lethal violence - he would have been easily traced and arrested later. The police officer involved has been fired mirroring action taken in the case of George Floyd.
Even worse, an innocent unarmed black restaurant owner who fed police for free was killed during a George Floyd protest (click here). The police officers involved have said that someone fired a shot at them and they returned fire. However, neither officer had their bodycams switched on in violation of police policy.Both Police officers are being investigated.
25 year-old Armaud Armery was shot dead while out jogging through his own neighbourhood, after a former cop and his son followed him and shot him dead, because they believed he resembled a man caught on CCTV footage that had committed a recent burglary. Mr McMichael the former cop initially claimed that his son had been violently attacked resulting in the shooting. However, video evidence proved otherwise.
NBC news in a report this week have said, black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men. Black and Hispanic men are also more likely to be searched in traffic violations in the US. The same report describes how police officer bias results in a significant difference in the manner in which Black and Hispanic men are spoken to and instructed by police during interactions.
An email from the Presidents of Churches Together in England (CTE) soon after George Floyd's killing, said:
"Churches Together in England Presidents are deeply concerned about the lack of racial justice in our society, and in the wake of George Floyd's death, have convened a series of meetings so they can listen to a range of black voices and hear the views of key black leaders.
"They believe that such engagement will enable them, as CTE Presidents, to increase their understanding of this deep-rooted lack of equality and so come to a position where they can make an active contribution towards a constructive and just way forward that enacts real and urgent change."
Racism is a real concern and British Asian Christian Association, is very aware of this. Our Trustee Juliet Chowdhry faced a horrid ordeal while travelling on a bus only a few months ago (click here). But Juliet herself is very aware that the views held by the man who verbally assaulted her, are not the views held by all. She has also experienced severe persecution of Christians in Pakistan and knows that biases and prejudices exist in all cultures, races, creeds and people of other diversities.
What can be felt by the mass protests and riots across America and the UK is that, there is a sense of being discriminated within the black communities of both nations and across Europe too. The statistics certainly illustrate that police behaviour to the black community is more severe if nothing else. Though BACA does not condone any of the violent riots we support the right to protest (while respecting COVID-19 laws) and agree with the Black Lives Matter racial equality and justice agenda.
The Prison Reform Trust recently wrote: "Analysis conducted for the Lammy Review found a clear direct association between ethnic group and the odds of receiving a custodial sentence. With black people 53%, Asian 55%, and other ethnic groups 81% more likely to be sent to prison for an indictable offence at the Crown Court, even when factoring in higher not-guilty plea rates."
So to some extent, there is evidence that the bias towards black people is within the Justice system as a whole and not specifically limited to police authorities.
Hannah Chowdhry, a BACA volunteer, is a member of the Mayor of London's Policing and Crime, Stop and Search Youth Reference Group, young people share their concerns and suggestions on the existing stop and search powers and their usage. She said:
"From the meetings I have attended it would seem members of the black and Asian communities are less likely to trust police.
"This is bad on many levels, as youth from these communities are less likely to share intelligence with police or to report crimes.
"Worse still, youth complain that police fail to switch on and wear their body cams, meaning complaints issued by youth are not addressed due to lack of evidence.
"We have been advised that police will now be dealt with more severely for non-compliant body cam use which has a set of predefined penalties.
"We were also told that police will now be better trained in conflict management, resulting in a better initial interactions with all people."
During her meetings Hannah was given a link to a new website that maps stop and searches across London Boroughs.
Hannah has worked out percentages for positive outcomes (any other action other than no further action), against stop and searches, based on ethnicity from the period June 2019 - May 2020.
She said "Redbridge features quite low for stop and searches in London for the current year which is not surprising as we do not have a big gang culture locally.
"What is evident is that the younger you are the more likely you will be stopped and searched.
"Many teenagers on the youth reference group have complained that they are often targeted because of what they are wearing.
"Wearing a tracksuit does not make you a criminal but seems to result in closer police scrutiny.
"Being black still results in the most stop and searches though the number of white searches in London is getting closer in number.
"Alarmingly, however the number of positive outcomes on white searches outnumber the positive outcomes on black searches, as a percentage searches on Asian men have a high yield yet they are much less likely to be searched - I think this is for fear of being labelled Islamophobic.
"I have also noted that in months with spikes in the number of searches have occurred relatively few extra positive outcomes have been achieved - there is a case for a better more efficient search policy."
Hannah and a group of BACA volunteers wanted to support the Black Lives Matter campaign on Saturday 13th June 2020. But due to a counter-protest by the Football Lads Alliance (FLA) it was cancelled. Notification was late and Hannah and others arrived at Trafalgar Square at which she produced this short video, quoting Martin Luther King:
Later she held a sign with a Muslim, a Hindu and an Atheist with the same words spoken by Martin Luther King at a line far from where police officers were holding at bay 1000's of white men from the FLA.
Hannah and the group travelled to see exactly what the FLA were protesting about and found no banners just many men drinking alcohol in the streets. There were no chants at the time and although the FLA claimed they were in London to protect British monuments, one of their members later urinated on a memorial for PC Palmer who was killed protecting Parliament from terrorists on 22nd March 2017 - Mr Banks was later sentenced to 14 days in prison.
One young white woman travelled to the location with a banner in support of the theme of 'Black Lives Matter' and was then slapped and had the sign removed from her under a barrage of expletives, until assembled police intervened.
At this point a decision was made by BACA volunteers to return home so that social isolation could be maintained and to avoid any skirmish. Only half an hour later clashes between the police and FLA took place at Trafalgar Square.
We continue to pray for racial equality and justice in the UK and for a restoration in peace in nations coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdown, and the unlawful killing of Floyd George whilst in US police custody.