George Floyd: UK police say they are ‘appalled’ by death and vow to tackle racism

Lizzie Dearden
A protester takes the knee near the US embassy in London, during demonstrations against the death in Minneapolis police custody of African American George Floyd: Reuters

British police leaders have said they are “appalled” by the death of George Floyd and called for justice and accountability in the US.

In a joint statement, three national police bodies admitted there was also “more to do” in the UK and said they were working to improve.

“We will tackle bias, racism or discrimination wherever we find it,” it added.

“Policing is complex and challenging and sometimes we fall short. When we do, we are not afraid to shine a light on injustices or to be held to account.”

The statement was signed by leaders of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the College of Policing and the Police Superintendents’ Association.

They said: “We stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified by the way George Floyd lost his life. Justice and accountability should follow.

“We are also appalled to see the violence and damage that has happened in so many US cities since then. Our hearts go out to all those affected by these terrible events and hope that peace and order will soon be restored.”

The College of Policing, which is the professional body for forces in England and Wales, has given training to US police in the past.

There are mounting calls for the British government to stop sales of UK-made teargas, rubber bullets and riot shields to American police amid alleged brutality against protesters.

The joint statement said that British police officers followed a tradition of policing by consent and were trained to use force “proportionately, lawfully and only when absolutely necessary”.

But force is used disproportionately against black and ethnic minority people in the UK, and a number of inquiries into alleged police brutality, deaths in custody and fatal shootings are under way.

In 2011, riots broke out in London and other British cities following the shooting of a young black man.

An inquiry found that Mark Duggan was lawfully killed and had most likely been throwing a handgun to the side as he was shot, but his family have doubted official accounts and initial police statements wrongly suggested there had been an exchange of fire.

Following demonstrations over both the death of George Floyd and racism in the UK, police said they would facilitate lawful protest.

But the statement warned that the continuing coronavirus lockdown still made public gatherings of more than six people illegal.

“We know people want to make their voices heard,” it added. “For whatever reason people want to come together, we ask that people continue to work with officers at this challenging time.”

It added: “The relationship between the police and the public in the UK is strong but there is always more to do. Every day, up and down the country, officers and staff are working to strengthen those relationships and address concerns.”

Hundreds of people ignored social distancing guidelines in Trafalgar Square (Reuters)

In the year to March 2019, 16 per cent of police use of force incidents in England and Wales were against black people, who only make up 3.3 per cent of the population.

Black people were also involved in 25 per cent of firearms incidents and a fifth of “less lethal weapons” incidents, including Tasers.

The vast majority of 428,000 total incidents recorded were handcuffing or restraint, which is counted as a use of force in Britain.

According to analysis of official statistics by the Inquest charity, there have been 1,741 deaths in police custody or following contact with officers in England and Wales since 1990.

Of those who died, 14 per cent were black and ethnic minority, which is proportionate to the population as at the 2011 census.

“However, Bame people die disproportionately as a result of use of force or restraint by the police, raising serious questions of institutional racism as a contributory factor in their deaths,” a report by Inquest said.

Police are also fining and arresting black people disproportionately under coronavirus laws during the ongoing UK lockdown.

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