A firearms officer has been suspended after Chris Kaba was shot dead whilst driving a car that had been flagged by number plate recognition cameras. He was unarmed. His case will be the first challenge for the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
“What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”
As mourners gathered outside Buckingham Palace to remember the Queen, another crowd gathered nearby – in London’s Trafalgar Square.
“Chris matters! Chris matters! When I say Black lives, you say matter! Black lives matter! Black lives matter! When I say Chris, you say matters…”
They were protesting about the death of Chris Kaba, a 24-year-old Black man who was shot by a Metropolitan police officer in South London.
On the 5th of September, an automatic number-plate recognition camera flagged the car Chris Kaba was driving, because it was linked to a recent firearms offence.
A chase followed, and an armed police officer eventually fired a single shot through the driver’s seat window. Chris Kaba died in hospital.
It later emerged that he was unarmed, and his family want answers
“We are shocked to see that in this century, from a specialist of the law like the police can shortcut someone’s life, especially a young boy. From all the questions we have, why this, why that, no one can give any justification. For us is totally racist and criminal.”Chris Kaba’s parents speaking to BBC News
Chris Kaba’s death comes at a sensitive time for the Metropolitan police.
“In the last couple of years, officers were jailed for sharing photographs of the murdered sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman. A serving officer, Wayne Couzens, was jailed for Sarah Everard’s murder. A unit based at Charing Cross police station were found to be sharing racist, misogynistic and homophobic messages. And a report found that the Met had been institutionally corrupt in their handling of the Daniel Morgan murder case.”Channel 4
After all that, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick quit in February.
Her replacement, Sir Mark Rowley, began his new role this week. In April, he spoke to the BBC about the challenges facing the Met.
“Trust has obviously taken a big, big hit in policing, and some of the data shows that. It’s not vanished to zero; there’s still a large residual baseline of trust in British policing, but I think there are some big warning signs. There are so many challenges. I think the pace of modern life, modern expectations… I think policing’s dropped off the pace a bit and it’s gonna take some quite dramatic solutions to catch up with those expectations. And some of those are for the police alone, and some of those are for police and others.”Sir Mark Rowley, BBC News
Sir Mark Rowley wants “more trust, less crime and high standards” in the force.
Chris Kaba’s case will no doubt be a test. The Independent Office for Police Conduct, or IOPC, has been investigating the incident that led to his death.
They say they can’t release details of Chris Kaba’s previous firearms offence, as that case is still under investigation.
But the IOPC has also been looking into the police’s handling of the incident.
“There came one announcement after the next: first, that Mr Kaba was unarmed. Then, the police watchdog launched a homicide investigation. And the officer in question has been removed from operational duties, having been handed a criminal and gross misconduct notice.”Channel 4
A homicide investigation isn’t proof of guilt, but Chris Kaba’s family – and the protestors – have expressed frustration that it took the police a week to suspend the officer involved.
“Any other job, if you’re under a criminal investigation, you should be suspended immediately. You know, it shouldn’t be two days, three days, it should be immediate. So we welcome the decision.”Channel 4
A handful of people die following police contact every year – that can be anything from car accidents during chases, to fatal taserings or shootings. But in the past three decades, only one police officer has been sentenced for manslaughter after a shooting.
The outcome of this case remains to be seen. Police misconduct hearings are notoriously slow, and investigations can take years.
The new Commissioner is under pressure to restore public trust in a force that’s in special measures.
For Chris Kaba’s family it may be too late.
Today’s episode was written and mixed by Patricia Clarke.