POLICING LONDON: The Met is the subject of a BBC documentary
BY NOW you will have seen the video of Texas police officers aggressively rounding up black teens at pool party to which they were invited.
Those that haven’t can watch the chilling incident here:
Watching the video evokes imagery of a slave master rounding up his unruly slaves.
This is perhaps unsurprising when you consider that today’s police force emerged from slave patrols, and has since failed to account for its institutional racism.
Much as slaves of the past committed no offence, the only ‘offence’ committed here was to have the audacity to accept a party invitation.
The video that shows Eric Casebold throwing a teenage girl to the ground, drawing his gun on unarmed black teenagers and hurling a tirade of profanities (all while the white teenagers seemed invisible), drew widespread criticism; criticism that has, accompanied by some flimsy excuses from his attorney, led to his resignation.
Those moving to celebrate this resignation as the serving of racial justice should recognise that this is a move that allows the officer to retain his pension and benefits.
More importantly, as the problem is framed as one of the individual and his bizarre Power Ranger-style barrel role, this is a resignation that should be seen as an attempt for the police force to retain its reputation.
This incident should be viewed in its larger transatlantic social context; that is, as another racist incident in an interminable line of police brutalities and disproportionality.
Earlier this week the first episode in the BBC’s documentary about The Met Police saw the commissioner acknowledge the racism in his force – a good start.
Unfortunately, the documentary failed to show any meaningful attempts at reform.
Showing a force obsessed with managing its public image on racism, rather than its actual endemic racism, did little to restore faith.
This was epitomised by the showing of the black Haringey Borough Commissioner Victor Olisa struggling, rather robotically, to empathise with the black community.
His concerns seemed to be primarily with the black community not accepting him, rather than the widely criticised Mark Duggan inquest verdict.
The show saw a black youth being fined for cannabis possession, the response to a report of a ‘Somali male with a gun’ that resulted in officers finding only some gardening shears in a bin; an all-white panel discussing issues of race; and Stephen Greenhalgh, the deputy mayor for policing and crime in London, disrespecting, rather than listening to, the well-known black activist Lee Jasper.
The commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, was right to suggest that racism is a societal issue. Recent reports of calls to the police to report suspicious activities such as ‘walking whilst Black’ stand testament to this.
Hogan-Howe however needs not to use this to excuse his force, but to recognise the police’s central role in creating and maintaining these stereotypes of Black criminality.
As Cornell William Brooks, director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said: “The resignation of Corporal Eric Casebolt is a good first step, but hardly the last.”
On both sides of the Atlantic, relations between the police and Black communities are at a considerable low. We need to continue to put pressure on the police for wholesale reform.
Remi Joseph-Salisbury is a PhD candidate at the University of Leeds with broad interests in race and racism, particularly in the UK and US