Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/344/5735
Make The Police Accountable
Christopher's CASE (see "A Lonely Death With No Dignity") is no surprise to Black and Asian people who for decades have seen the authorities covering up for each other in cases of custody deaths and institutional racism.
Home Office figures show that between April 2002 and March 2003 there were 104 deaths in custody, with 17 people dying in the London Metropolitan Police Force area, and 11 people in the West Midlands. Black people are nearly ten times more likely to die in custody than white people, linked to the use of restraint or struggle with police officers.
Inquest, a campaign group, says that in 1994, minority ethnic groups accounted for more than 22% of custody deaths - at a time when ethnic minorities made up approximately 6% of Britain's population. By 2002 these figures dropped to 9% but rose up to 16% in 2002/2003 - a decade after the Stephen Lawrence case.
Of about 655 cases since 1990, just nine have resulted in inquest judgements of 'unlawful killing.' Out of 70 deaths during 2001/2002, none resulted in an 'unlawful killing' finding and there were only three such verdicts in the year to April 2003.
But cases of custody deaths rarely result in disciplinary procedures against police officers even after an 'unlawful killing' finding. Even fewer officers face criminal charges - in recent years none of those taken to court have been convicted!
The Socialist Party calls for the police to be made accountable to the public through democratically elected committees and representatives from the communities and trade unions.
But we recognise that under a society run by and for the rich only, the police will ultimately be controlled by those in power to protect their system. Change in the police must be directly linked to the need to change society and reverse the way it is run from the top down.
As Malcolm X said: "You cannot have capitalism without racism." We say that divide-and-rule will no longer be needed when the majority run society, when the police force could be more of an organised community service.
In The Socialist 24 April 2004:
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