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MP Says Suspending Officer Who Fatally Shot Unarmed Black Man Would Signal Change In Police

MP Says Suspending Officer Who Fatally Shot Unarmed Black Man Would Signal Change In Police

The new Commissioner of the Met Police, Sir Mark Rowley, is being urged to suspend the officer who fatally shot unarmed black man Chris Kaba (Alamy)

6 min read

MPs challenged the new chief of the Metropolitan Police to signal a willingness to improve relations with London’s black community under his leadership by suspending the officer who fatally shot unarmed man Chris Kaba last Monday.

Sir Mark Rowley is today spending his first full day as Commissioner of the Met, exactly a week on from Kaba’s death at the hands of a firearms officer in Kirkstall Gardens in Streatham Hill, south London, after police made "tactical contact" with a car he was driving.

The Met has since confirmed the 24-year-old black man, who was shortly due to become a father, was not carrying a firearm at the time, sparking protests and accusations of racism.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has launched a homicide investigation following the incident, but the officer who shot him remained on active service – though not on operational duties – for a full week alongside growing calls for their suspension.

On Monday evening the Met announced the officer had now been suspended, with Assistant Commissioner Amanda Pearson saying the decision has been reached after considering factors "including the significant impact on public confidence".

In a statement she said: “Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Mr Kaba’s family and friends.

"We understand how concerned communities are, particularly Black communities, and thank those who are working closely with our local officers."

Ahead of a vigil for Kaba this evening, two Labour MPs who had been calling for the officer to be suspended told PoliticsHome Rowley needed act to show the Met will be run differently under him to his predecessor Dame Cressida Dick.

Her time as commissioner was beset by scandal and criticism, with relations between the capital's ethnic minority communities and the Met breaking down amid accusations of racism following incidents including a black schoolgirl being strip-searched while on her period without an adult present after being wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis.

A safeguarding review concluded earlier this year the strip search was unjustified and racism “was likely to have been an influencing factor”. The Met apologised and said the incident “should never have happened”.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, the MP for Streatham where Kaba was killed, believed Rowley had already been slow to act in addressing issues of police trust in black communities. 

“It's his first day, but this case has been going on for a week, and I think if he’s going to show to the community, those that have the least trust and confidence in the police, that the Met is going to change – this will be the thing that he has to deal with today,” she said. 

Ribeiro-Addy was critical of the decision not to suspend the officer who fired the fatal shot, even after the launch of the IOPC investigation into the incident. 

“There is no other situation, no other office, in which I can think of that you could do something like this and still remain actively in work," she continued. 

“Suspension isn't necessarily guilt, it’s acknowledgement that something has happened and you are under investigation, but not suspending somebody in a situation like this makes me question how many more police officers are there out there under criminal investigation that are still at work?”

She and other MPs are also calling for the IOPC to allow Kaba’s parents to view the body-worn camera footage of the officers involved in their son’s death, and also give them a timeline for their investigation.

"Keeping families stringing along like this is completely unfair, I understand there needs to be a thorough investigation and we want a thorough investigation, but this can't keep being allowed to happen,” Ribeiro-Addy said.

“I've seen too many families that have been left in limbo for too long while they just trudge along, they need to change and actually they need to work on their communication.”

She added: “The Met want to improve relations, the IOPC want to improve relations. Well all good relationships start with good communication, and they’ve both failed here.”

Veteran Labour MP Diane Abbott criticised the role of the Police Federation in not suspending the officer involved.

“Time after time they stop officers being suspended, they accrue long investigations, and the Met Police just has to take its courage in both hands and suspend the guy,” she told PoliticsHome.

The former shadow home secretary said she was “not hopeful” about the Met changing its culture under Rowley and that she was “worried” about him because she felt as someone who has worked for the force before, he is “part of that network of senior officers enmeshed in that culture” which has existed at Scotland Yard.

"It is a point in time to really move on from the Met as it's been in the past," Abbott explained. 

“Because what the Met has done is it's improved its PR, they talk the talk, but the average Metropolitan Police officer on the street is just as bad as they've ever been.

“That's my view, I'm sick to death of hearing the Met having shot some black man, and then have some excuse.

“It's been an issue for me in Hackney for the entire 30 years I've been an MP in and it just needs to stop.”

Rowley, who first joined the Met as an assistant commissioner in 2011, is taking over during what is arguably one of the most turbulent times to face Britain's biggest police force.

The former counter-terrorism boss was assistant commissioner for specialist operations in 2018 when he was passed over in favour of Dick becoming commissioner, and subsequently retired from policing.

In the intervening four years he co-authored a counter-terrorism thriller, The Sleep of Reason, and walked to the base camp of Mount Everest. He now arguably has an even bigger mountain to climb as he returns to lead a force which was placed in a form of special measures by police watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services in June. 

Their process of monitoring the Met via their “Engage process” is used in extreme cases when the watchdog believes a force has failed to respond adequately or timeously to established concerns.

The then-home secretary Priti Patel wrote to him earlier this year upon his appointment, demanding he address the "appalling mistakes of the past”, saying public confidence had been damaged by the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer and strip searches of children, as well as the publication of disturbing racist, sexist and homophobic messages exchanged by officers based at Charing Cross police station.

Rowley is already having to fend off criticism from civil liberties groups over the treatment of republican protestors following a number of reports of police intervention into anti-royal demonstrations in the days following the Queen's death.

Footage was posted online today of an individual holding a sign reading "Not my King" being forcibly removed from outside Parliament by officers.

In a statement the Met police said: “A member of the public was asked to move away from the Carriage Gates outside the Palace of Westminster this morning in order to facilitate vehicle access and egress through the gates.

“They were not arrested and were not asked to leave the wider area.”

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