Sunday, 24 September 2017

The Public Death Of Rashan Charles and Black Community Confidence in the Met Police.

Rashan Charles tragic and brutal death on screen is haunting the powers that be like a wailing banshee. 

Things are not going well for the Metropolitan Police Service, the Independent Police Complaints Commission nor the Home Secretary.

Met Police and Black community tensions continues to build. Its a bit like a slow underwater leak into an already full dam. The damage may not be immediately discernable, but sooner or later that dam’s going to crack with devastating consequences.

The radio silence maintained by the Met Police and the IPCC in relation to the death of Rashan Charles is deafening. 

I suspect we are witnessing a concerted cover up and an information clamp down about a case, that should righty cause outrage and uproar.

And I should know, since tweeting a #Justice4RashanCharles meme I've had legal notices sent to me by Twitter and some restrictions placed on this tweet being circulated in the UK.  

I suspect this legal challenge has come from the Metropolitan Police Service who don’t want the image of the officer circulated.

Trying every single trick in the book. 
Trying to clamp down on the truth. 

This legal intimidation is as a result of the Police recently applying to the Corners Court for an “ex parte” hearing. They applied for and were granted, reporting restriction on the naming of two police officers (we only know of one… so that’s interesting) and the member of the public who assisted the officer in restraining Rashan.

Rashan being brutality detained 
I’m informed the Charles family were not informed of this hearing and were not given any opportunity to challenge the Met’s demand for anonymity for their officers, so much for genuine police accountability and due process.

Some three months on, and despite the much-vaunted claims of ‘police bodycams’ leading to a new climate of openness and transparency in the aftermath of the shooting of Mark Duggan, the Met police have reverted to type and closed down all avenues of information on the Rashan case.

Where is the Met’s footage and why hasn’t it been released? Why do the Met want the police officers names to be publicly withheld? Don’t we pay their wages?

So little is known about this incident, that one has to truly wonder if the Charles family, cannot get clarity from the Met about the precise circumstances leading up to the death of Rashan, what will it take for the Met to be truly accountable to Londoner's?

Let's look at what we do know. We know that Rashan was a passenger in a car that was stopped by Tactical Support Group (TSG) police van.

Was Rashan's detention unlawful and illegal? 

We don’t know why the car was stopped or what legal powers were used. 

We don’t know what powers the TSG officer who chased Rashan relied upon to detain and restrain him. 

Months later, despite this being a case that attracts huge public interest, we know virtually nothing of the legal circumstances surrounding his detention. 

This is deeply distressing for the Charles family who are becoming increasingly frustrated with a process of inquiry and accountability that appears to be building a brick wall between them and the truth.

I suspect we still don’t know what happened today because this was an illegal stop and search and the police don't want their recently announced increases in the use of the power to be fatally undermined. 

That’s the difficulty the Met face, telling the truth now means they would be forced to admit, that Rashan’s forcible detention and arrest fell well below the standard legal and professional requirements. 

Think about it…why else would the Met refuse to comment, in the face of overwhelming public criticism, on the precise legal rationale for his pursuit, restraint and arrest?

I believe the Met Police and the IPCC want as much time and distance to have passed between the incident itself and the full disclosure of the facts, most of which they have in their possession now. Were this true, this would constitute a cynical media management campaign, prosecuted against the public interest and at the expense of the a grieving family. 

They are deeply worried about the Charles case, not simply because we have a video that cant lie, but because the full facts, were they to be revealed now are so shocking, as to constitute a threat to their policing legitimacy. They're also aware of another important reality, they face a formidable Charles family, demanding justice.

A fact largely unknown in the public domain until now, is that Rashan’s uncle is a retired Metropolitan Police TSG Sargent with 30 years service under his belt. I’ve met and spoke with him on many occasions and he says of Rashan restraint, he’s never seen anything like in 30 years in the job. He’s a big man and in many ways, is a typical policeman’s policeman, a dedicated professional officer and a Police Federation rep for many years.

He told me that throughout his 30-year career he’s restrained hundreds of people suspected of swallowing drugs without a single compliant or injury. He was also a trained Firearms Officer, and a Borough Operations Manager. And he knows instinctively what legal restraint looks like. Public Order trained to level 2 this man was responsible for training his fellow police officers.

He is shocked, angry and disappointed that neither the Met Police nor the IPCC are offering any explanation as to the legal basis of Rashan’s detention. The Charles family are also disappointed with the chaotic, foot dragging response of the IPCC. You can see the anger and disappointment in his eyes, this is a man who believed in the system would work and now he knows it doesn't, he’s devastated.

Another curious thing, where’s the delayed pathology report into the cause of Rashan’s death? Why is it, some two months later we still have no public explanation as to the official cause of his death? 

I was contacted recently by a reliable contact that tells me that the Pathologist has in fact found that Rashan died from strangulation. We shouldn’t be shocked, you don’t have to go to medical school to reach that conclusion, but what’s really shocking if true, is that I’m told that the pathologist is currently being lent on by the Met Police and Home Office to withhold and amend this report.

My information is the pathologist concerned is desperate to tell the truth but is being subjected to massive pressure to keep silent.

Ask yourself, why is it taking so long to publish a pathology report into Rashan death? 

The reason could be the Met don’t like the conclusion. If true, then this may have certainly lead to serious concerns being expressed in the Met, the Mayors Office and Government itself, that it's publication, citing strangulation as the cause of death, would lead to widespread social unrest and delegitimise the use of the power of stop and search.

Whatever the conjecture and speculation, there remains one objective truth in all of this, and that is the video can’t lie.

That three minute plus tape has told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, leaving the assembled authorities of denial, blinking at the screen, mortified and desperate to know what to do and desperately seeking a lawful and reasonable ‘explanation’ of events capable of reinterpreting and reframing the plain awful truth.

We are being asked to believe their explanation that the police officer was simply trying to save Rashan from swallowing a package of suspected drugs, that turned out to be nothing more than caffeine and paracetamol.

There are those, particular the army of on line police trolls, who are determinedly active in seeking to discredit Rashan and justify the officers actions I’ve now named them, the Police Troll Support Group #PTSG. My twitter TL is infested with these full time, troll agents. I have written about their activities before after they targeted me and conspired to have me removed from Twitter. 

It’s quite remarkable that we’re being asked to believe the Police   narrative, rather than believe our own lying eyes, remarkable, but not surprising. As Black people we know that racism is a powerful hallucinogenic drug capable of inducing extreme denial in the face of objective truths.

The officer concerned has now been served ‘misconduct papers’ a term that suggests some kind of minor misdemeanour, as though he was late for work or insulted the boss. It certainty doesn’t equate to being questioned for the possible murder of an innocent man. Why cant police officers be arrested like the rest of us, where there is compelling evidence of serious criminality?

The Met are standing by their man and refusing to suspend him from duty despite the enfeebled IPCC request for them to do so. Instead they’ve placed the officer on restrictive duties.

Now let me ask you this, on what planet are we living on when a police officer, who may have been responsible for the death of a member of the public, goes back to work the next day and continues as normal? In any other profession that person would be suspended until an investigation had concluded and determined all potential criminal responsibilities and legalities.

Another anomaly in this case is why has this officer has given a preliminary statement to the IPCC, that say’s nothing about the legal grounds for his actions? The IPCC Commissioner Cindy Butts whose investigating this case needs to recognise the public need answers now, not in three years time. 

This officer will now of course be formally interviewed under caution, unbelievably at a time of his choosing, having been served his IPCC initiated misconduct papers, and will be surrounded by his Federation lawyers and no doubt retaining his right to silence.
In a statement in response to the Met's failure to suspend this officer, the Charles family issued this statement;

The video clip of 20-year-old Rashan Charles shows him thrashing around, desperately gulping, trying to breath as he is ‘restrained’ by a Metropolitan Police Officer in Dalston, east London.

Rashan died on the 22nd July 2017 almost three months ago and his death has opened many people’s eyes to the reality of the police brutality and racism faced by many black young people on a daily basis.

The conclusion reached by the majority of objective people who watch the violent scenes unfold is that Rashan was strangled to death. That simple and objective truth is both crystal clear to most who watch Rashan take his final breath.

There is no controversy around these events. The film does not lie.

The TSG police officer chases Rashan into a shop, wrestles him to the ground, and then with the assistance of a member of the public, proceeds to place his neck in a forearm lock, exercising a lethal lynching like vice grip, that literally crushes his neck, cutting of both vital oxygen and blood supplies to the brain.

You can see the most urgent and tragic desperation of Rashan as he thrashes around struggling to suck in oxygen, suffocating under the sheer weight of both the police officer and a member of the public.

As you replay this scene from Dante’s hell, you can feel the oxygen draining form one’s own lungs and your breath is literally taken away, as you watch Rashan fall limp.

One has to ask where is the Mayor of London and the London Assembly in all of this? We’ve had the death of Edir Frederico Da Costa and a young 16yr old black boy from Lambeth, Tyresse Johnson who riding on a scooter with no helmet and being chased by police ‘fell off” and subsequently died from severe head injuries.

There is no mention of these issues at City Hall. No expression of concern from the Greater London Authority, the London Assembly members, not a word from Mayor Sadiq Khan, nor his Policing Advisor Sophie Linton nor his one and only black deputy Mayor.

And so, on these most important matters, we have total silence from the office that is ultimately responsible for the Met Police. Where is the voice of Londoners?

It should be of no surprise to anyone that not one of these mourning black families have not received a formal apology from the Met police. Their contempt is palpable. 

Hard to imagine such contemptible callousness and lack of basic compassion, but black lives remain cheap in London and have no political significance for the Met Police, the London Mayor or the London Assembly. For them its simply business as usual.

All of this, and to make matters worse, we have no locally elected Police Consultative Groups in London. Abolished by Boris Johnson they were a vital conduit for communications between the police and public at times of great tensions. Lord Scarman recommended their creation in aftermath of the 1980’s Brixton uprising. He felt it was important to address the obvious communication, trust and confidence gap that led to public anger about unrelenting police racism.

The consequences of their abolition means that local police accountability has been slowly eroding ever since. Unelected Safer Neighbourhood Boards have taken their place and simply failing to fill the gap. Their minutes are private and they operate largely in secrecy and anonymity, the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee is a pale imitation of the former Metropolitan Police Authority it replaced. 

The result of all of this is? We’re left with the same information vacuum identified by Lord Scarman and cited as a key contributing factor to the civil disturbances that took place, post the shooting of Mark Duggan in 2011.

Today we remember that that stop and search has increased by a factor of ten since 1986 and as a direct result we have the highest level of tension and public mistrust between London’s black communities and the Met seen in decades.

London is refusing to learn the lessons of its recent history and is therefore destined to repeat the tragic mistakes of the past. No community can long withstand, without tragic social consequences, 
such profound political marginalisation, 
police oppression and injustice.

People, politicians, the police and Government really need to wake up and understand that Londoners’ need answers now and that any further delays will only exacerbate already growing police and community tensions in the capital.

As was once said by someone very famous "Without justice, there can be no peace"