The London riots brought the spectre of institutional racism to the foreground once more. The killing of Mark Duggan and the circumstances around it sadly became dwarfed by the violence and riots that followed. The issues, however, have not gone away.
The long-awaited culmination of the Lawrence murder trial reminded us of the kind of widespread racism that existed within the Metropolitan Police (Met) only a handful of years ago. On Friday, a full investigation was launched by the Crown Prosecusion Service (CPS) into allegations of racial abuse by three Met officers.
On the day after the London riots ended, a young black male was arrested in Beckton, East London. During the arrest he managed to record an interchange with the officers, predominantly a PC called Alex MacFarlane, in which he is subjected to a torrent of racial abuse. MacFarlane is supposedly recorded saying:
“The problem with you is, you will always be a nigger.”
MacFarlane is also accused of using unnecessary force and is seemingly heard admitting to strangling the young man during the arrest. He has since been placed under suspension. The other two officers involved are currently still on duty.
An initial CPS investigation took place upon receiving the complaints on 11 August 2011. The conclusion was that no action should be taken against the officers because the remarks “did not cause the man harassment, distress, or alarm”. They have since decided to review this decision under pressure from the young man’s lawyer, Michael Oswald, and the public.
The justification given by the CPS for its original decision has caused fury throughout the black community. The issue has now gained huge public attention after a damning article was published in the Guardian. Questions must be raised, given the overwhelming evidence freely available online, as to how the CPS could ever consider such remarks acceptable from Met Officers enlisted to protect the community.
Photo by Sam Frankl.