A Black youth worker who was Tasered by police has lost his fight for damages in court. Edwin Afriyie was stopped for alleged speeding whilst driving in Central London. Officers claimed that Afriyie took up a “fighting stance” before they tasered him. This was later shown to be an outright lie.
Afriyie made a malfeasance allegation against Central London Police. He also claimed to have suffered back, head and knee injuries during the incident. Police body-worn camera footage clearly shows Afriyie falling backwards after being tasered. He landed with his head against the hard edge of a stone ledge. Medical evidence suggested that he suffered a head injury and was knocked unconscious.
The judge, Henrietta Hill, declared that the police were “objectively reasonable” in their belief that the use of the taser was necessary.
In a common occurrence with our corrupt police force, the officers’ original claims regarding Afriyie’s behaviour toward them turned out to be a fabrication. Police statements held that he had been “steeling himself to attack officers”.
However, body camera footage showed Afriyie was standing with his arms crossed. Officers had encircled him at some distance, and were shouting orders. City of London Police denied liability for Afriyie’s claims of assault and battery. They also claimed that the use of force was “necessary and reasonable”.
Hill ruled that the footage showed Afriyie had done “no such thing” as adopting a fighting stance. Looking at the footage, he didn’t do so “at any point in the incident”. In turn, she said that this warranted “justifiable concern” that the officers colluded to overstate Afriyie’s aggression.
However, and in spite of acknowledging that the police had fabricated their reasons for tasering Afriyie, Hill still ruled to dismiss his claims of assault and malfeasance.
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David Hughes, Afriyie’s barrister, argued that the use of the taser was not in response to an “identified threat”. He also argued that the use of tasers should be proportionate and lawful.
In return, the judge stated that:
Mr Hughes submitted that I should find as a fact that nothing was about to happen that necessitated the use of force.
He may be right that nothing would, in fact, have happened had the Taser not been discharged.
However what matters is whether [the officer’s] belief in what might happen, so as to justify the use of the Taser, was objectively reasonable.
Let’s be clear here. Afriyie was stood with his arms crossed. He made no move against the officers, nor did he look set to “at any point”. Instead, the police lied in their statements. They did so to cover up the fact that they tasered a stationary Black man.
Still, the judge ruled in their favour.
Racism in action
White supremacy primes Western society in the belief that a motionless Black man surrounded by police is “steeling himself” to attack. Likewise, because of this belief, police can be sure that – even when they know they’re recording themselves – their claims of aggression will be tolerated.
As this case so aptly demonstrated, we are also primed for the belief that the preemptive use of force is reasonable. And, if all the police have to do is prove their “belief in what might happen” in order to justify the use of force, they will continue to win their cases. It will always be a justifiable belief that a Black man might attack if standing whilst being Black is an act of aggression.
This is one among many reasons why Black men are seven times more likely to die following police restraint. Tasers are dangerous weapons, and they are in the hands of racist and unaccountable officers of the law. As we saw in Afriyie’s case, even if the weapon’s discharge doesn’t cause injury – which it can – then an uncontrolled fall can.
We know already, and have seen over and over again, that our police force is racist at its core. Afriyie’s case was a clear demonstration of the way in which our justice system aids and abets the police in their racism. Root and branch, this system is beyond reform or redemption.
Featured image via screengrab Guardian.com/Guardian
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