Reverend Jesse Jackson urges total reform on handling of deaths in custody
American civil rights campaigner Reverend Jesse Jackson will address a press conference in east London on Thursday to publicly give his backing to the growing number of calls for an independent judicial inquiry into the current handling of deaths in police custody.
A number of agencies including Operation Hope and Recovery, The United Friends and Families Campaign, Inquest, Black Mental Health UK, Operation Black Vote and the Campaign 4 Justice have come together to stand with the families who have been affected by these tragedies.
The meeting will highlight the widespread distrust that the recent spate of deaths of Mark Duggan, Kingsley Burrell Brown, Demetre Fraser and Jacob Michael, at the hands of the police has caused. It will also focus on the urgent need for the establishment of an independent judicial public inquiry.
Reverend Jackson will call for an independent public inquiry leading to wholesale reform of the way that these tragic deaths are currently investigated and police officers held to account. He will address the recent global increases in levels of police brutality. In the UK last year a 164% increase in the rate of stop and searches targeting Black people helps explain why fatalities are disproportionately higher among the UK’s African Caribbean communities.
Government data shows that in the past 12 months alone Black men have made up 20% of the deaths in police custody, despite coming from a community that are just 2% of the population. Disturbingly, mental health service users make up 61% of all deaths in custody and more work also needs to be done to prevent further fatalities amongst this vulnerable group.
Lee Jasper, Chair of London Race & Criminal Justice Consortium & executive member of Operation Hope and Recovery stated,
Suspicious deaths in police custody represents the critical fault line in police and community relationships and this past year has seen a massive increase in the number of Black men who suffered deeply suspicious deaths whilst in police custody. Had someone in Government or the London Mayor’s Office heeded the warning signs about this issue that were apparent throughout the spring and summer, the August riots could have been avoided, preventing needless loss of life and damage to property.
Jasper, who will chair the event, added,
In many cities throughout the UK there exists a poisonous policing sub culture of racial profiling. This drives up racist stop and search rates that contributes to an increase in police community tensions. Furthermore, as a result of the many failures of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the IPCC are perceived as discredited and no longer enjoy the confidence of Black communities. These are critically important issues. As an experienced former Director of Policing for London for eight years it is my informed view that unless a full and open public inquiry takes place, bringing the powerful disinfectant of transparency to an issue clouded in controversy, that anger and frustration could erupt again. The families of those who have died whilst in the care of the police or other institutions deserve a public inquiry; the nation’s best interests would be best served by such an inquiry. Government needs to understand that without justice there can be no peace.
Also speaking at the conference along with Reverend Jackson and Jasper will be Merlin Emmanuel of Campaign 4 Justice, Family members of the 'Sean Rigg Justice and Change Campaign', Members of Mark Duggan’s family, Stafford Scott from the Tottenham Defence Campaign, Matilda MacAttram, director of Black Mental Health UK, Deborah Coles, Co-director of Inquest and Reverend Wayne Malcolm from Operation Hope and Recovery.