“You’ll always be a nigger”, said PC Macfarlane to the young black man held in handcuffs in the back of his van. “That’s your problem.”
Another police officer verbally abused the man, and bragged happily that he had strangled him to stop him ‘kicking out’, although the man in detention was already restrained and in handcuffs. All the officers present appeared to be quite happy with the behaviour of thier colleagues. Not one of them intervened or objected, and most probably they didnt think they had a problem. A black man, under arrest, making allegations of racist abuse against a police officer, was never likely to be taken seriously.
But this time their victim was able to record the conversation on the mobile phone that was still in his pocket. He also had the the determination to see this through to the end, and the good sense to get support and practical advice from the Newham Monitoring Project. Many people are fearful of the potential consequences of standing up to the police, and it is far from an easy thing to do. What this man did took courage.
Even with the hard evidence of the phone recording, it still looks like it will be a struggle to get any real action taken. The CPS decided not to press charges against PC Macfarlane or any of the officers involved. This changed only after the young man’s legal representatives, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, threatened a judicial review of their decision. The CPS have now said that “all of the evidence should be reconsidered” and “a fresh decision taken”.
Filming or recording the police is becoming an increasingly popular thing for young people to do, and it has to be one of the best defences young people have against malpractice and discrimination. It is not without risks – there have been times when the police have resorted to threats and even violence to stop people filming them. But it looks increasingly that this is what it will take to end this sort of unacceptable police behaviour.