Police taser their own race relations adviser by mistake and then tell him it’s his own fault

Emily Apple

Police tasered a 63-year-old race relations adviser over a case of mistaken identity. But instead of apologising, the Police Federation is blaming him for their actions.

A case of mistaken identity

Judah Adunbi was walking home in Bristol when two police officers accosted him. In a video captured by one of the man’s neighbours, they demand his name as they believe he is a suspect they are looking for.

Right from the beginning, the female officer is holding her taser out. The officers ask for his name but he refuses to give it. He tells the officers:

If you taser me, you’ll probably kill me.

Adunbi then attempts to enter his house. But one of the officers grabs him. His neighbour is heard telling the police:

He’s just trying to get into his house.

But the police officers don’t listen. They taser him. Abundi collapses onto his back and the female officer says he is under arrest. The neighbour tells the police that their actions are “totally unnecessary” and one of the officers replies that “he was trying to fight me”. The neighbour states:

He wasn’t trying to fight you. He was trying to get into his house… You started it. You made physical contact first and it’s on video.

Adunbi asks the female officer to check his wallet for his ID, but she refuses to move. Instead, the male officer handcuffs him while Abundi says that he needs to go to the hospital.

Although Abundi eventually received medical attention, police arrested and charged him with assaulting a police officer. They later dropped the charges.

You can watch the full video here:

https://youtu.be/35lgedY0nkg

Feared for his life

Abundi subsequently described what happened:

I felt that was it. Because of the way I fell back. The way I fell backward on the back of my head. I was just paralysed. I thought that was it. I thought they were taking my life.

And he further said that:

At first, you don’t accuse someone of being someone else. You ask questions. The first thing they should have done is come to me in a polite manner. The way they approached me – they were accusing me. That is wrong.

Victim blaming

The case is currently under investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. And Sue Mountstevens, the police and crime commissioner for Avon and Somerset also said she had “real concerns” over what happened.

But the Avon and Somerset Police Federation seems unfazed by what happened. Instead, spokesperson Vince Howard claimed:

The officers were doing what the public expect of them, attempting to detain a wanted and potentially dangerous man.

And Howard continued by blaming the victim for the actions of the officers. He asserted the officers were:

Immediately presented with a person who is uncooperative, rude and threatening in his demeanour.

He further said:

Officers try to de-escalate the situation by explaining who they are looking for and their belief that he is the wanted man. At no time during the interactions between the officers and this man does he say he is not the wanted person, he simply continues to be abusive towards the officer. The two officers then arrest the man, during which time one of the officers is assaulted and Taser is deployed.

And he again blamed Abundi:

They made every effort to gain the co-operation of Mr Adunbi and had he given that co-operation this matter could have ended very differently.

Racist stereotypes

But speaking to The Canary, Kevin Blowe, coordinator of the Network for Police Monitoring, blamed racist stereotypes for the incident:

Judah Abundi was tasered because the officers immediately reduced him to the racist stereotype of “potentially dangerous” directed persistently at black men. This is why black people are three times more likely to have a taser used against them by police than white people.

Blowe is also scathing about Howard’s remarks and the use of tasers:

Tasers are supposedly used only when no other options are available in resolving dangerous situations, and officers risk committing an assault if they fail to use force proportionately. Vince Howard knows perfectly well that ignoring and refusing to cooperate with officers is not the same as threatening them. But as is so often the case, the Police Federation is more than willing to try and defend the indefensible, even if it causes even more damage to the police’s reputation.

Abundi is a founder member of Bristol’s independent advisory group, where he worked with the police and the Crown Prosecution to try and improve community relations. In the video, he is not violent. He is simply aware of his rights and is not co-operating with the police. This is not a reason to use a potentially lethal weapon.

This is disgusting behaviour from a trigger-happy officer, and an appalling response from the Police Federation. It appears to be a textbook case of institutional racism and secondary victimisation. And these kinds of cases show exactly why we need fewer armed police and fewer tasers, not an increasingly militarised police force.

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Featured image via screengrab

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