Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Met Police Bodycam Video of High Profile Black Activist Arrest Goes 'Missing'

Over 60 people were in attendance at Mondays 21st of May 2018, emergency meeting called by the London Mayor's office to address rising levels of anger and concern about the arrest of Ken Hinds, a local community activist from Haringey.

With key representatives from Haringey Black communities, and a range of other London community representatives, such as Blaksox - the Social Movement, the assembled audience was both inclusive and diverse. In addition, young people got to make their voices heard, and this added to the weight of argument that was about to ensue.

Pastor Nimms
In attendance from the Mayor's office was Deputy Mayor, Sophie Linden, accompanied by Greater London Authority Staff. Councillor Joe Ejifor, the newly elected leader of Haringey Council was also in attendance, much to the surprise of local residents, who haven't seen a council leader at a community meeting, since the late great Bernie Grant MP was in charge. 

Not only did he attend, he stayed the entire meeting, so this was no puppy show business

Stafford Scott
From the local community a whole range of community activists ranging from Stafford Scott to Rev Nimms Obunge who chaired a meeting, ensured that there could be no suggestion that this meeting was not representative.

The meeting opened up with an impassioned plea from Clasford Stirling of Broadwater Farm fame, who restated and emphasised his full support for Ken and expressed his fear, that if the police could arrest someone like Ken, a man who is noted for his calm demeanour, professionalism and commitment to supporting community, and improving community relations, if even he can be subject to this type of arrest, then he feared that other activists could face is similar.

Then a young man spoke passionately about the way in which Ken had "quite literally saved my life" and how the work that Ken had done had impacted upon hundreds of young black men who were involved or on the fringes of serious criminality. Without people like Ken, he said, I would probably be dead today.

At the root of local concerns is the fact that Kens arrest appears inexplicable to anyone who knows him. How can we take the Metropolitan Police seriously, when they conspire to manufacture such ludicrously, outrageous accusations ? Ken was eventually charged with police assault and obstruction of duty. Anybody who knows Ken, knows he's not the type to be engaged in argy-bargy with police officers. 

So the charge strikes us, the community as incredulous. Although all the police involved in his arrest wore body cams that was clearly switched on during the arrest, as indicated by a constant flashing light,  following the arrest, we were all reassured, after we wrote to the Borough Commander demanding all evidence, including body cams footage be secured. 
She replied that everything in regards to Kens arrest, was being properly secured to ensure no evidence went missing.  The reality is, that's exactly what then happened.

Ken Hinds was informed on the morning of this meeting, that the body cam footage from the arresting officer, showing precisely what occurred had now "gone missing."

You really couldn't make this up, a leading member of the local community, whose spent his entire life, seeking to improve relations between local that young people and the Met, finds himself the subject of arbitrary, discriminatory, stop and search and what I believe to be,  malicious prosecution, and the police body cam video, introduced to provide reassurance about contentious police encounters, goes missing ? .

Stafford Scott laid out the full implications of the Mets Gang Matrix ranging from falsely identifying black youth as being in a gang, to these individuals finding themselves targeted by a range of government agencies and institutions, including DVLA, immigration, tax and landlords. The Matrix is now being seen as a major tool, responsible for the criminalisation, of hundreds, if not thousands of young black people in London. The meeting demanded the Mayor make a statement in response to Stafford’s devastating report. 

My own contribution, and I've written about it more here, was about the constant undermining, over the last decade of the important principle of policing of consent. I bemoaned the demise of local police consultative groups, created by Lord Scarman in 1986 in response to the Brixton uprisings against police brutality. He cited the existence of a critical  "information vacuum" as being one of the primary contributing factors to a breakdown in communication between Brixton's black communities and the Met. 

The sheer folly of the abolition of these critically important police consultative groups, was clearly demonstrated in the events, leading up to, surrounding and following the death of Mark Duggan in Tottenham in 2011. In the smouldering aftermath of ashes, bullets, blood and bone, it was clear that a lack of communication between the Met, Duggans family, and the wider community, became an infuriating and symbolic representation, of the perceived contempt that some senior officers in the Met have for Londons black communities and deaths in custody, victims families.

So to witness once again, the tragic repetition of this tired old history, is deeply frustrating for many, who of us who have been here before, and ultimately if left unaddressed, will have tragic consequences. In short, if London does not learn, it will burn.

Deputy Mayor, Sophie Linden seemed to have done very little homework in preparation for this important meeting. She challenged the notion put forward by me, that policing relations in London had deteriorated to their worst level in over 30 years

To back up that claim, she cited the public provision of detailed statistical information publicly available on the Mayor's office, website.

Whilst the provision of this information will be educating and illuminating for white Londoners, of that there is no doubt, but in relation to Black Londoners, the information tells us, what we already know. That's not progress, that regression. 

It's a weak and bizarre claim, for a City that had a fully, democratically accountable. Metropolitan Police Authority for a decade, all underpinned by democratically accountable , borough consultative groups, and both may I add, abolished by Tory Mayor Boris Johnson, that this atrophying of police democratic accountability in London, is purely imagined and that London's police accountability has been enhanced, by a pie chart, simply defies belief. 

The reality is that London police accountability has been seriously denuded. 

Sophie was asked a devastating question by a young, softly spoken, black women, whose question was so gently asked, that it disguised its ruthless efficency

She asked Sophie for 'concrete examples' of how she had improved  "police accountability" in London." ? Sophie's response was that democracy had been improved by the simple provision of detailed policing statistics. 

Which was ironic, as these statistics,  revealed the cavernous, and the fundamentally worrying, public trust deficit of black communities in relation to the Met. Facts known to the Mayors Office, hidden from us by the Met and the Mayors office, facts that had in their possession and to which their key policy response was to hope no-one would notice. 

Sophie was soon disabused, by the  assembled audience, of the idea that this somehow constituted progress. The backlash to her statement was strong and unanimous. 

The facts are quite clear. Every single London Borough with a significant Black/African/Caribbean community, public trust and confidence within the Metropolitan Police is in a parlous and dangerous state. 

Confidence levels are currently, I believe, at the lowest level we've seen in decades. In some London boroughs confidence levels for Black communities are as low as anything from between, 30% and 50%. That’s a massive and huge indictments of the Mayors Office, the Met Commissioner. 

The long and short of it is this, the Mayor and the Met, knew that confidence in the police was falling and that community tensions are clearly rising, yet they choose to keep that information to themselves and did nothing in response. That for me constitutes an outrageous abandonment of civic duty and reckless endangerment of the public, including police officers. Everyone is put in danger, as a result of this refusal to act and London is made a much less safer place as a result. 

This is what is so perplexing... about the office of Sadiq Khan, there can only be two possible explanations for their inaction; either the Mayor's office, including Deputies Sophie and Matthew, have known about these statistics all along, and therefore were aware of the of the precipitous decline of Black Londoners trust and confidence in the Met, and chose to do nothing; or they were not aware of these Met statistics until they read them on my blog. 

And when you think about it, either one of these possible explanation would be totally unacceptable, particularly against a background of public criticism and challenge that has consistently pointed out this problem to City Hall. 

Whatever the rationale for their failure to engage London's black communities, it cannot be said, that over the course of the last two years, these points have not been driven routinely home to the Mayor, by people like me and many others.

The question we have to ask, is are Deputy Mayors; Sophie Linden and Matthew Ryder, seemingly unaware or unconcerned, by this crisis in public confidence in the Met ? And why hasn't the Mayor set out a detailed policy response to an issue that could see this city burning in flames?

A notable absentee, from this important meeting was the other Deputy Mayor, the most invisible Matthew Ryder. A man who seems to risen without a trace, steadfastly refusing to make an impression. It was interesting Matthew was not at this meeting, it's also interesting that in contrast to Sophie Linden, Matthew is virtually unknown amongst Londoners.

I happen to know Matthew, from many moons ago, and although we have very little contact in recent years, I am deeply disappointed about his track record halfway through this Mayoralty. 

Let's be straight up and down about it, London Mayor Sadiq Khan is not engaged, and shows no real interest in London's African, Caribbean descent communities. Both he and his team, appear tone deaf to the experience and pain of London's black communities strained relations with the Met. The is his a blind spot and weakness, It could be his Achilles heel, an issue that could be extraordinarily costly for London and the country as a whole. New

It's remarkable, in contrast, that former Tory Mayor Boris Johnson for all his myriad of political faults, and there were many, didn't make the mistake of ignoring London's black communities in the way that Sadiq Khan has. He made it a priority to talk with, be seen to engage and court influential Black London leaders within business and faith communities.

I must say having held the post  Director of Policing for London myself for eight years, I am clear that, in terms of these critical failures, they're a reflection of the lack of experience of the Mayoral team, as it is a reflection on the Mayor himself. 

Politicians are like products and actors; they need to be told where to go and what to do. But if you don't have the respect and trust of your Mayor, then they will simply ignore you, and sometimes undermine you. Advising politicians means facing them down when they're wrong.

Deputy Mayor Ryder and Linden are failing to represent London’s black communities and provide sound advice to the Mayor about his and the Met's relationship with London's black communities, or if they are doing so, then its  Mayor Khan, that is refusing to listen. 

The sad thing is, at this stage of his Mayoralty, in terms of policy and resources, what isn't already decided is unlikely to get done. Even the helpful interventions in terms of violence prevention spending will take at least a year to deliver, against a backdrop of rising violence. This will create intolerable pressures on the Mayor and the Met leading to the cycle of policing reinvention. A moral panic, driven by the media, demands for hard enforcement, the adoption of cosmetic knee jerk policy responses, followed by more violence and ultimate failure. 

There could however, be another plausible explanation for Matthews Ryders lack of visibility and effectiveness, which would be even more concerning. T

here are very few people African/Caribbean descent in the Mayor's office and my impression is that Matthew is deeply marginalised within City Hall, and from what I'm told, from what now, has been a myriad of different sources, is that the Mayor himself simply has no respect for the man, such is his view of Matthew that the Mayors behaviour in City Hall, often borders in open and public contempt.

Either way, the fact that he was not in attendance at this incredibly important Haringey meeting, probably signals the death knell to his credibility and career, having once again seriously miscalculated the political tone and temperature of London's black communities, and failed to show his face, at a time when people are anxious, angry and hurting. 

People don't forget that kind of calculated insult.

The meeting continued with a variety of contributions from the floor, all questioning, challenging, pushing Deputy Mayor Linden for more substantive responses to key critical questions on the arrest of Ken and the discriminatory use of stop and search by the Met police.

The meeting ended with the Deputy Mayor being left in no doubt about the anger felt in the room and the potential for this Police boycott to spread to other parts of London, if not resolved quickly and positively. 

The key questions and demands for the Mayor, from the meeting were;

A demand to drop and to resolve the issue of the malicious prosecution of Ken Hinds by the Metropolitan Police Service.  

To receive a response from the Mayor's office in relation to the Amnesty International Gang Matrix report and the recent report from David Lammy MP on racism within the criminal justice system policing

It is simply bizarre that it's taken this crisis, this challenge, to elicit any responses from Mayor Khan in relation to these incredibly important reports, both of which  made headline national and international news the Mayor had nothing to say, until asked

Key reports, that provide the evidential basis for the persistent and now growing culture of racial profiling, and now as a result of inaction, have unleashed a rampant and resurgent institutional racism within the Metropolitan Police Force.

She was tasked to report back to the Mayor the level of anger and outrage in Haringey and bring back answers

The group itself informed her that the local Boycott remained in place. That a larger meeting, of groups across London, would be convened to consider the next steps. 

And that another meeting would be convened with her to inform her of these next steps the Haringey group will take in alliance with others, to fully address the issues raised in this meeting.

Watch this space. 

Ken Hinds has been bailed to Highbury Magistrates 19th of July 2018.