By Jeremy Dewar
On 21 September, after a year’s failure to respond to the family of the of 23 year old rap artist Chris Kaba, and a week following a thousand strong demonstration outside Scotland Yard, firearms officer NX121 was finally charged with the murder.
Police had trailed father-to-be Chris through the streets of south London on the night of 5 September 2022, when they stopped the car he was driving and fired a fatal bullet through his windscreen. Chris was unarmed. He was putting his life back on track, training to be an architect after a previous conviction. Now he was dead.
But what followed this incredible delay of justice – seven months for an Independent Office for Police Conduct inquiry and five months for the Crown Prosecution Service to act – is yet another proof of how little black lives matter to the British establishment.
The charging of the killer has led to over 100 Met firearms officers handing in their permits in protest, while their colleagues from neighbouring constabularies refused to provide cover. It was a virtual unofficial strike – which thousands more across the country intend to join if NX121 loses his legal right to anonymity. If he were to be convicted there can be little doubt that an all-out police strike would result. They demand and have hitherto received impunity for such killings. So much for the claim that the police are just ordinary citizens in uniform.
Immediately, Met Commissioner Mark Rowley, Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak rushed to the defence of the ‘strikers’. Braverman said, ‘brave firearms officers… mustn’t fear ending up in the dock for carrying out their duties… That’s why I have launched a review to ensure they have the confidence to do their jobs while protecting us all.’
Not a word of sympathy for Chris’ family. Not a word about the course of justice. Instead, a direct attempt to prejudice opinion in an ongoing trial.
Yet is the fear of ending in the dock or in jail a real one? The short answer is no. According to the INQUEST lawyers group, who are representing Chris’ family, of the 1,870 deaths following police contact since 1990, only 12 on-duty officers have ever been charged with murder or manslaughter. Of the 80 fatal police shootings over this period, only three other officers have been charged.
Of these only one officer, Benjamin Monk, the killer of Damian Atkinson, was found guilty – of the lesser charge of manslaughter. The truth is the police already benefit from a far higher legal threshold when it comes to criminal prosecutions.
This has resulted in the toxic atmosphere of racism, misogyny and homophobia that gave firearms officers Wayne Couzens and David Carrick the arrogant belief that they could commit rape, torture and murder with impunity. No wonder NX121 felt safe when he pulled the trigger. Now Braverman wants to enshrine this ‘confidence’ in law and with new regulations.
And it’s not just with guns that the police harass innocent young black men. According to the government’s latest figures the police using Section 80 ‘stop and search’ powers harassed over half a million people. Broken down by ethnicity, the rate of stops for white British people stands at 5.2 per 1,000. For Black people, the rate is an incredible 27.2 per 1,000 – 2.72% of the whole Black population in just one year!
No justice – no peace
The road to justice will prove long and hard; a trial is not expected before September 2024. Along the way we can expect the police to take ‘unofficial action’ to pervert the course of justice.
Tory ministers too, led by the racist Braverman, will continue to intervene, regardless of laws to prevent commenting on cases sub judice. The Home Secretary’s review is likely in far quicker time to extend police impunity from prosecution from the undercover police, enacted two years ago in the infamous Spycops law, to all firearms officers.
Nor can there be any faith in Labour’s Keir Starmer. As Director of Public Prosecutions he blocked the prosecution of Jean Charles de Meneses’ killers and tried to prevent prosecution of the police officer who killed Ian Tomlinson during an environmental protest. More recently he ordered his MPs to abstain on the spycops bill.
So it is vital that anti-racists, trade unions and local Labour Party branches step up the pressure by making the United Families and Friends campaign annual protest on 28 October the biggest ever.
Unions and student groups should pass motions demanding justice and preparing to walk out if Braverman grants police further impunity, the charges are dropped or NX121 is found not guilty. If the police can take ‘unofficial strike action’, so can we.
But we need to go further. We should demand that all police are disarmed, permanently. Their special units – the Territorial Support Groups, the firearms squads, the special demonstration squad, etc. – must be disbanded. Stop and search laws should be repealed. And all officers charged with violent or prejudicial behaviour must be immediately sacked and face the full force of the law.
It is an illusion, however, to believe that the police can be reformed. They are part of the capitalist state, one of the ‘special bodies of armed men’ as Engels called them. The working class must demand their dissolution, a task that can only be completed by a workers militia, mandated by and accountable to the fighting organisations of the working class and the communities of the socially oppressed.