Black people overrepresented in incidents where police use physical force

Source: Morning Star website article

Ceren Sagir, Thursday, December 13, 2018

BLACK people are disproportionately subjected to the use of physical force by the police, an analysis of Home Office figures have found.

Between April 2017 and March this year, a total of 313,00 incidents of use of force during restraints was recorded in England and Wales.

The Inquest charity found that black people were on the receiving end in 12 per cent of these incidents, although they represent only 3.3 per cent of the population.

In contrast, white people were under-represented in the statistics, being involved in 73 per cent of the incidents while making up 86 per cent of the population.

The “experimental statistics” are the first to be published since a requirement to make them public was introduced by the National Police Chiefs Council in April 2017.

Black Activists Rising Against Cuts national chair Zita Holbourne told the Star that the figures were “a disgrace” but not surprising.

She said: “Institutional racism and the criminalisation of black communities must stop. The government need to be held accountable for their actions.

“Racially profiling and using force has to stop. The government need to hold up their hands and take real action, not just with words that never transfer into steps to prevent this. We need to collectively hold those responsible accountable.”

During the period covered by the statistics at least six restraint-related deaths of black men were recorded, including that of 20-year-old Rashan Charles, who died in Hackney, east London, in July 2017.

Another case was that of a black woman in her fifties who died in Cheshire in April last year, several days after being arrested and restrained with leg shackles.

Lee Jasper, former race and policing adviser to ex-mayor of London Ken Livingstone, told the Star: “The disproportionate use of force is a reflection of the worsening culture of institutionalised racism that results in racial profiling and violent interactions with black people, Muslims and other minority groups.

“The mayor of London must exert his control and influence on restraining the worse aspects of the Metropolitan Police Service before more tragedies occur, leading to a potential civil uprising.”

Self-protection was the most common factor influencing the decision of officers to use force, followed by the restrained person’s use of alcohol and drugs, as well as their size/gender/build, mental health and possession of a weapon.

Detention under the Mental Health Act was the outcome of 12,000 incidents of force and 15,000 incidents were recorded in a medical setting.

Inquest director Deborah Coles said the “long-overdue” statistics were “welcome concrete evidence” of what was already known.

She said: “These figures beg questions about discriminatory assumptions and attitudes towards certain groups of people.

“All restraint has the potential to cause death and the same issues are reflected in the numbers dying. This is clearly not only a policing issue but about the need for investment in front-line drug and alcohol and mental health services.”

The findings follow a report into the government’s progress in tackling deaths in police custody, one year on from the publication of the independent review of such incidents by Elish Angiolini QC.

Her review found that police practice must recognise that all restraint can cause death.

“The Angiolini review made pragmatic recommendations to address racism, dangerous use of force and safer responses to intoxicated people yet, more than one year on, the government has reported no progress in these areas,” Ms Coles said.

“These troubling figures should accelerate much-needed change in culture and practice.”

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