Recording Surfaces Racial Abuse by London Police

A man choked by police during riots in London
A man choked by police during riots in London

First came the physical assaults, said the young man arrested by London police during last summer’s riots. What followed a knee to the chest became even more personal. One officer used a racial epithet and taunted him while another used a pejorative sexual term, according to the 21-year-old Black man. It happened last August, when there was still a heavy police presence on London’s streets a day after rioting.

The remarks were captured in a recording made by the unidentified man, who said the incident “has destroyed my life, to be honest.”

The Crown Prosecution Service, which prosecutes cases in England and Wales, earlier this year declined to bring any criminal charges against officers, but said Friday it would review the case after the man’s lawyer threatened to take the service to court.

In the audiotape the young man, inside a police van, complains about his treatment. The disparaging comments came during an exchange between the man and the officers after his August 2011 arrest.

After using the racial epithet, one officer allegedly said, “You’ll always be a ni**er. Don’t hide behind your color, yeah,” according to the recording. “Be proud. Be proud of who you are, yeah. Don’t hide behind your Black skin.”

The alleged victim told reporters the officers made insulting remarks about his family and mother. “They abused me very badly and I felt like an animal,” he said. “I felt humiliated, and it was the worst experience in my life.”

The man was arrested on a driving offense but was never prosecuted. The inquiry began after the alleged victim handed his mobile phone to officers at a police station and said he had been abused.

London’s Metropolitan Police, in a statement Friday, said it received a complaint of discriminatory behavior; assault and oppressive conduct or harassment. One officer was subsequently suspended. One was placed on restricted duties on an unrelated matter and the other remained on full duties.

The case was then referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which began an investigation. No independent witnesses came forward, the IPCC said.

“The IPCC’s investigation initially examined the actions of all eight officers inside the police van at the time the man was arrested. As the investigation progressed three officers were served with notices in connection with alleged assault and public order (use of racist language) offenses,” IPCC Commissioner Mike Franklin said in a statement.

The case next went to the Crown Prosecution Service, which in February had decided to take no action against the three officers.

It’s now pledging a new review of the matter.

Grace Ononiwu, deputy chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS London, said she had “considered the matter personally and directed that all of the evidence should be reconsidered and a fresh decision taken by a senior lawyer with no previous involvement in this matter.”

Michael Oswald, the alleged victim’s attorney, said that “we were surprised” by the Crown Prosecution Service’s initial decision not to take action. He said the service made serious errors when deliberating the matter.

The alleged victim said he wants justice.

“They were really downgrading words and just the horriblest words you could ever hear, especially from someone in that sort of, that’s meant to be protecting the community.”

The National Black Police Association in the United Kingdom said the incident “once again highlights the issue of racism and hate in Britain.”

“NBPA are deeply concerned that this issue undermines efforts to build and maintain trust and confidence of communities grappling with the impact of serious violent crime and escalating hate crimes. Moreover, questions are bound to be raised about the very fairness of our police and CJS (criminal justice system).”