At Newham Monitoring Project we frequently receive reports of police racism so sadly the shocking recording of a policeman making racist comments to Mauro Demetrio last summer or allegations of brutality by Terelle Ferguson come as no surprise.
What's rare is that they make the headlines or receive any kind of effective redress. In fact, the only thing different about Mauro Demetrio, who we have supported, is that he was quick-thinking and courageous enough to record the abuse on a mobile and had the good fortune that it was preserved.
Unfortunately the number of reports we receive indicate that this is not an issue of a couple of racist police officers but a far deeper problem. To challenge racism and abuse of power we need to increase transparency around police interactions, improve accountability and provide greater protection to members of the public. CCTV is now commonplace in almost every part of public life, except for where they are most needed – in the back of police vans.
Following the public outcry over Mauro Demetrio's treatment, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe indicated that he might consider support CCTV cameras in police vans, but he has given no timeframe as to when this might happen.
The impact of street and public-order policing on young people during the Olympics has been raised continually with us as an issue of concern by local people. With this in mind, we are bracing ourselves for the Olympics and are gravely concerned about how local communities will survive the anticipated militarisation of Newham.
We call on the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to prioritise this issue and take steps now so that there is a pilot scheme of CCTV cameras in police vans in the main Olympic host borough, Newham, by the start of the Olympics on July 27th 2012.
Install CCTV cameras in the back of all police vans
Thanks to the courage and quick-thinking of Mauro Demetrio, who managed to record racist insults by a police officer in the back of a police van in Newham, the Crown Prosecution Service has been forced to review its initial decision to take no action against any officer involved in his alleged ill-treatment.
What Mauro's experiences highlight are long-standing concerns about the potential risk posed to the personal safety of individual members of the public who are arrested and detained by the state. In the absence of robust systems of accountability, this risk is far greater when there is inadequate monitoring of such detention, especially inside a police vehicle.
Cameras to monitor citizens are now commonplace in almost every part of public life, but the same enthusiasm for their use has never been shown where they are most needed – in the back of police vans transporting detainees. CCTV in police vehicles would provide greater protection to potentially vulnerable members of the public and, equally, to police officers themselves: cameras would provide strong evidence in disputed cases of alleged misconduct.
Following the recent public outcry over Mauro Demetrio's treatment, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe indicated that he might consider support of the installation of CCTV cameras in police vans, although he has given no timeframe as to when this might be implemented.
Whilst we recognise that rolling out a nationwide scheme may take time and money, the Home Secretary must respond to public concerns and take action to rebuild public confidence at the earliest opportunity. Millions of pounds from the public purse have already been spent on preparing London for the Olympics, which includes increased levels of policing. We believe an essential part of this huge investment should be set aside to take reasonable steps to prevent potential abuses of civil liberties.
We call on the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to prioritise this issue and take steps now so that, as an absolute minimum, there is a pilot scheme of CCTV cameras in operation in police vans in the main Olympic host borough, Newham, by the start of the Olympics on July 27th 2012.