British police abuse: Root cause of riots

Linn Washington Jr.
By Linn Washington Jr.

Linn Washington Jr. is a journalist and journalism professor who works in Philadelphia, Pa USA. Washington specializes in analytical/investigative coverage of issues involving law, social justice, race-based inequities and the news media. Washington teaches courses in investigative and multi-media urban reporting. He is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.

Posted on Friday, 4 November 2011 16:20, updated on Wednesday, 19 February 2020 12:10

London – Nearly six months after the suspicious death of her only son in May 2011 while in British police custody, Jossette Fraser awaits an official response to evidence she’s obtained contradicting police claims about her son’s death.

More than three years after the suspicious death of her brother in August 2008 while in British police custody Marcia Rigg awaits an official response to evidence her family has amassed contradicting police claims about her brother’s death.

Nineteen years after the suspicious death of her twin brother in 1992 while British police custody Stephanie Lightfoot Bennett awaits an official response to evidence she’s developed contradicting police claims about her brother’s death.

Recently Fraser, Rigg, Bennett and scores of others whose family members have died while in the custody of British authorities participated with over 500 people in the 13th Annual protest against in-custody deaths convened by the organization: United Families and Friends Campaign.

UFFC personnel at that protest march passed out a broadsheet containing the names of 3,180 individuals that have died suspiciously since 1969 while in the custody of police, prisons, psychiatric units and immigration detention centers in Britain.

Too many have died in questionable circumstances,” stated a message on that broadsheet. “Too many killed unlawfully… and pitifully too few held to account for the deaths of those we name here.”

Eight persons died in police custody during the first nine months of 2011 according to official British government statistics more than double the custody deaths last year.

However, challenging those 2011 government statistics are organizations like Inquest, a non-governmental police abuse monitoring organization. Inquest lists 16 in-custody deaths during the first eight months of 2011.

The fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan in August 2011 ignited days of rioting that rocked London and other British cities.

In 1985, in a North London area near the Duggan shooting, the death of Cynthia Jarrett during a police raid at her residence, sparked the ‘Broadwater Farm Riot’ – an upheaval that followed a riot days earlier in the South London community of Brixton arising from a fatal police shooting.

Mark Duggan’s brother, Shaun Hall and Cynthia Jarrett’s son, Patrick Jarrett, also participated in that UFFC march.

Such official duplicity is despotic not democratic!

Both Hall and Jarrett criticized police abuse in Britain and the failure to thoroughly address this misconduct by authorities from Prime Ministers to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) – the government agency that [allegedly] investigates police misconduct.

For the record, police abuse from verbal insults to fatal incidents is not exclusive to Britain.

Recently, for example, a British tourist visiting Dubai died inside a police station following a severe beating after an arrest for swearing in public.

In America, vicious police assaults from New York City to California on anti-corporate-greed-Occupy-demonstrators have again thrust the issue of brutality by American police into news headlines.

They treated my brother less than a dog,” Marcia Rigg often says about the death of her brother Sean, an aspiring musician who died on the cold ground, half naked, in an outdoor holding area of a London police station after taken into custody following a mental-related emergency.

Rigg’s referencing dog-treatment isn’t hyperbole because British police have received convictions for cruelty to police dogs.

In 2010 a British policeman received a six month suspended sentence for the death of two police dogs he left inside a vehicle on a sweltering day. In 1998 two British policemen received convictions for cruelty to police dogs, one receiving a four-month jail term later reduced to three months.

The first and still only conviction of British police for an on-duty killing of a human being occurred in 1969 when two policemen received guilty verdicts for killing a black man.

What really riles British protestors about the in-custody deaths impacting non-whites and poor whites is not the persistence despite so-called official ‘reforms’ or even the seeming absolve-police-at-all-costs postures of prosecutors and Britain’s IPCC.

The thing that really ticks protestors is dismissive attitudes from top British leaders who rarely even give lip-service to the abuse issue that causes anguish among so many British citizens.

British and American leaders who pompously lecture so-called lesser nations on their need to respect the ‘rule of law’ do not practice what they preach when turning blind-eyes to rampant lawlessness by their law enforcer.

Such official duplicity is despotic not democratic!

The UFFC’s 13th Annual march – for the first time – provoked the very thing protestors protested against – abuse from police.

This year police roughed up some demonstrators denying them their desire to simply pin their demands to the gate blocking entrance to the street containing the official residence of Britain’s Prime Minister as protesters have done in previous years.

That the families of those who have died in custody can be treated in this way is an outrage,” stated Lee Jasper, the head steward for that march, on his blog.

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