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25 Nov, 2014 13:43

‘Abused, tasered’: Watchdog says Met Police racially-profiled black firefighter

‘Abused, tasered’: Watchdog says Met Police racially-profiled black firefighter

Six Metropolitan Police officers who allegedly dragged a black off-duty fireman from his car and shot him with a Taser should face charges of racial discrimination, a statutory watchdog says. The victim claims he was simply requesting assistance.

Edric Kennedy-Macfoy says the officers in question behaved in a wild and unpredictable manner when he addressed them in North London to offer them a description of a man he had seen hurling a rock at a police vehicle.

Following a 20-month investigation into his case, the Independent Police Complaint Commission (IPCC) said there was noteworthy evidence the officers had profiled the fireman in a discriminatory manner.

The findings, seen by the Guardian, were compiled after a comprehensive probe which entailed speaking with witnesses to the incident.

The IPCC will pass a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), suggesting that one particular constable could face criminal charges over the use of the Taser.

Central to the IPCC’s findings was a failure on behalf of the officers to act with courtesy, patience, integrity, professionalism, diplomacy or common sense, the Guardian reports.

(Reuters / Olivia Harris)

Now-retired Inspector David Burgum – the senior officer among the accused – denies the allegations leveled at him and his colleagues. He questions Kennedy-Macfoy’s motives throughout the case, and strongly condemns the IPCC for being politicized and biased.

“In my opinion Mr. Kennedy-Macfoy has cynically played the race card for his own ends,” Burgum told the newspaper on Monday. “I do not consider that the IPCC have conducted an independent investigation. They are a political organization with a strong anti-police bias.”

‘Gross misconduct’

Kennedy-Macfoy was driving to his home through Harrow in North London at approximately 3:30am in September 2011 when he witnessed a young man throw a rock at a police van. He subsequently flagged down the vehicle to inform the group of officers about his sighting.

An argument ensued, during which the IPCC noted some officers used abusive and offensive language against Kennedy-Macfoy. The firefighter claims police officers swore at him, then approached his car and pulled him from it.

The 31-year-old told the Guardian he responded in a calm manner to the officers at this juncture, insisting he was a firefighter and hadn’t done anything wrong.

IPCC investigates alleged police racism re arrest of Edric Kennedy-Macfoy - another sign of IPCC's new "tough boots" -as @sandralaville says

— Danny Shaw (@DannyShawBBC) March 28, 2013

Nevertheless he was tasered without warning as he walked backwards with his hands held up. He was then arrested and charged with obstructing police officers. Following a trial at Brent Magistrates’ Court, he was found not guilty of all charges.

A summary of the IPCC core findings, seen by the Guardian, concluded the officers’ immediate reaction to the fireman was based purely on his ethnic background.

The report identifies six police officers it says must answer to charges of gross misconduct with regards to their alleged discrimination against Kennedy-Macfoy.

One police constable who used a Taser twice on the man could potentially face charges of a criminal nature, the IPCC’s report found.

‘He was black’

During Kennedy-Macfoy’s trial, Burgum said his staff had faced a “stressful” situation that evening, and had previously dealt with a group of young partygoers who had hurled missiles at them.

“I couldn’t say he was anything to do with the party. The party was all black. He was black. He had driven through the cordon. I had to do a quick risk assessment,” he added.

On the question of his abusive language towards the fireman, Burgum told the paper it was absurd for the IPCC to raise questions about this because “Mr. Kennedy-Macfoy swore at me first.”

Black Firefighter Edric Kennedy-Macfoy Lodges Met's 10th #Racism Complaint in Three Weeks http://t.co/rqpb0DWt

— ONE WORLD (@adbridgeforth) April 20, 2012

He stressed that some of his colleagues present at the incident were “of ethnic minority backgrounds,” and like him they wholly reject any suggestion what transpired was “a racial incident.”

Burgum will not face any disciplinary proceedings due to his retirement. However, the remaining five officers, all currently serving with the Met, may face internal misconduct proceedings. The Met has declined to specify if it will hold such a hearing.

(Reuters / Andrew Winning)

If the force fails to do so, the IPCC has the power to compel it to oversee such proceedings. Probed by the Guardian on whether it planned to use this power, an IPCC spokesperson said the watchdog would “cross that bridge” if it came to it.

Lee Jasper, chair of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) and a member of the UK Respect Party, says racism within the Met “has become acutely worse over the last eight years.”

“Post the recession, we’ve seen austerity act as a magnified glass highlihgting institutionalized racism within the force,” he told RT on Tuesday.

Earlier this year, a claim brought against Scotland Yard by a black female officer revealed a Met practice of deleting internal records relating to sexual and racial discrimination.

The policy came to light when PC Carol Howard’s case was heard by the Central London Employment Tribunal.

In 1999, the Macpherson report denounced the Met as a racist institution in its inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Fifteen years later, Kennedy-Macfoy’s and Howard’s cases highlight the concern that institutionalized racism continues to plague Scotland Yard.