Letter to mark International Day Against Police Brutality

UFFC march, London, October 2014

The excesses of policing have come under more scrutiny since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson and we feel that today, International Day Against Police Brutality, is an important time to speak out against the injustices of policing.

The advising charity Inquest has recorded 1507 “deaths following contact with police” in England and Wales since 1990. Each time someone dies after contact with the police the grief and mourning of their family and friends is put on hold indefinitely. Instead they are forced to become campaigners seeking justice for their loved ones and themselves.

What these family campaigners want more than anything else is the truth about what happened to those killed. Many would agree that police should not investigate the circumstances of the killing themselves, yet the Independent Police Complaints Commission is populated by a significant number of ex-police officers; a clear conflict of interest.

For a reliable account of the circumstances surrounding a death the coronial inquest system is often relied upon, yet there is no guarantee that families who have suffered a loss will receive the legal aid often necessary to hire a barrister that represents their interests in these proceedings. In the majority of cases unlawful killing verdicts returned by juries have not lead to prosecutions against police.

We demand that the families of all those who die at the hands of the state automatically be afforded legal aid to help in their pursuit of the truth. Where inquests find an unlawful killing a CPS prosecution should follow as a matter of course.

Police brutality is by no means restricted to those instances where people die in custody. Stop and search monitors StopWatch place Black people in London as almost three times more likely to be subject to stop and search. A recent HMIC report has found that African-Caribbean people are also disproportionately subjected to strip searches, accounting for 17% of the total. With such drastic disparity and discrimination this amounts to a routine and violent incursion into many people’s everyday lives.

There is also a direct continuum between this kind of everyday police brutality and the deaths that have received more attention of late. The death of Habib Paps Ullah, who died during the course of a stop and search, highlights the potentially lethal results.

There are still worrying numbers of people pursuing justice from the state due to police brutality of many forms. Today is a day for remembering and protesting these brutalities.

Marcia Rigg, United Families & Friends Campaign
Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennett, United Families & Friends Campaign
Wail Qasim, Defend the Right to Protest
Claude Cole, Julian Cole Family Campaign
Diane Abbott MP
Lee Lawrence, son of Cherry Groce
Saqib Deshmukh, Justice for Paps
Malia Bouattia, NUS Black Students Campaign
Janet Alder, Justice for Christopher Alder
Becky Shah, daughter of Inger Shah, Hillsborough Justice Campaign
Jo Orchard, Justice for Thomas Orchard
Kedisha Burrell Brown, Justice for Kingsley Burrell
Liberty Louise, Justice for Leon Briggs
Matt Foot, Justice Alliance
Max Farrar, David Oluwale Association
Suresh Grover, The Monitoring Group
Stafford Scott, Tottenham Rights
Daniel Machover, human rights lawyer
John McDonnell MP
Jenny Jones, London Authority deputy chair of crime and policing
Simon Pook, human rights solicitor
Kojo Kyerewaa, London Campaign Against Police & State Violence
Jules Carey, human rights lawyer
Liz Davies, barrister, vice president Haldane Society
Alfie Meadows, injured protester
Hannah Dee, Defend the Right to Protest
Simon Pook, human rights solicitor
Piers Telemacque, NUS vice president for society and citizenship
Rachel Harger, civil liberties paralegal
David Renton, barrister, author Who Killed Blair Peach?
Russell Fraser, barrister and secretary of Haldane Society
Zarah Sultana, NUS National Executive Council
Lana Adamou, civil liberties solicitor
Abdi-Aziz Suleiman, NUS National Executive Council
Sheila Coleman, Hillsborough Justice Campaign
Hannah Rought-Brooks, barrister, Haldane Society
Zita Holbourne, national co-chair of BARAC
Susan Matthews, parent of injured protester
Nadine El-Enany, lecturer in law, Birkbeck
Jennifer Hilliard, Parents for Real Justice
Christopher Hilliard, acquitted protester
Amy Jowett, injured protester
Shanice McBean, Defend the Right to Protest and arrestee
Zekarias Negussue, NUS National Executive Council
Samayya Afzal, NUS National Executive Council
Halima Sayed, Black Women’s Forum UK
Shakira Martin, NUS National Executive Council