At the start of 2021, Mohamud Hassan, a 24-year-old Black man, died after being released from police custody. 10 weeks later, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has served misconduct notices to three more South Wales police officers and a custody officer in relation to Hassan’s sudden, unexplained death. Hassan’s family is calling for the suspension of the officers involved as well as of chief constable Jeremy Vaughan.
The officers involved are now under investigation. Hassan’s family is calling for them to be suspended, along with South Wales police chief Vaughan. The family stated:
Despite all the evidence increasingly pointing to this having been an entirely avoidable death had South Wales police carried out their duties properly, Vaughan continues to do nothing, and no officers have been suspended to date.
Hassan’s family and their supporters, including BAME Lawyers 4 Justice vice-chair Lee Jasper, are concerned about a “conspiracy” between South Wales Police and the IOPC. Six days after Hassan’s sudden death in January, Vaughan issued a defensive statement. It said that his force had referred the matter to the IOPC “not because we thought that police officers had done anything wrong, but because it was the right thing to do”.
Meanwhile, the IOPC released a statement suggesting that Hassan “had not suffered any physical trauma that could have resulted in his death”. But the additional misconduct notices that the IOPC has served to South Wales officers completely undermine these statements.
IOPC’s poor conduct
Hassan’s family members continue to be concerned by “a lack of transparency by the IOPC”. And they now understand that “there may have been some ‘slippage’” in the handing over of police bodycam footage. Further, the IOPC relayed the sensitive news to Hassan’s family via email, shortly before publishing the press release. This happened despite requests that the IOPC not contact the family directly.
Hassan’s aunt said:
I am heartbroken to find out the extent of cover-up, lies and deceit in this investigation.
I know all too well the extent of Mohamud’s injuries as I saw him when he came home from Cardiff Bay station. He was fine when they took him the evening before. If the IOPC think that the arresting officers used excessive force they should be suspended immediately to stop this happening to someone else.
Institutional racism in South Wales police
In a statement, Hassan’s cousin said:
In any other job you’d be punished if your actions caused somebody to die […] but it looks like some people in South Wales police think they’re above the law. It’s no wonder that Black men like me see the police as a threat when we are taken from our beds, attacked and left to die. This isn’t justice.
Hassan’s family isn’t alone in their loss at the hands of South Wales police. Mouayed Bashir died after South Wales police officers restrained him. His family is also seeking justice. And both families are calling for the IOPC to release records and police bodycam footage. We also mustn’t forget South Wales police and the Crown Prosecution Service’s failure to prosecute a suspect over the tragic death of 13-year-old Christopher Kapessa.
Meanwhile, campaigners are seeking justice for Siyanda Mngaza. She was imprisoned for defending herself against a racist attack by four men. Moreover, South Wales police failed to investigate Mngaza’s accusations about the racist assault, despite physical evidence.
These cases all point to institutional racism in the South Wales police force. This racism must be rooted out, and the force must be held to account.
Holding the police to account
Whether it’s the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, or police crackdowns at the Clapham vigil commemorating Sarah Everard’s life, or at demonstrations defending our right to protest, we must continue to demand accountability. Police “brutalised” women at Everard’s vigil. And they arrested legal observers at the subsequent protest. Black Protest Legal Support stated:
An attack on legal observers is an attack on vital community movements that hold the police to account. Legal observers are volunteers, independent of the protest, who monitor police conduct on the ground and provide legal support to those attending or arrested.
Law enforcement targeting independent witnesses is yet another sign that the police refuse to be held to account. We rely on independent police monitoring groups to challenge excessive, discriminatory policing, and to encourage police to act with humanity and accountability. According to INQUEST, 1,780 people have died in police custody or following contact with police in the UK since 1990. But no officers have been convicted. This shows us that the IOPC is not fit to hold the police to account.
Without accountability, police are emboldened to act with impunity. Without accountability, we will continue to see tragedies and miscarriages of justice. That’s why we need to take a stand and fight for justice for Hassan, Bashir, Mngaza, and countless others.
Featured image via Lee Jasper
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