Just over one week ago today an unarmed Chris Kaba, a 24 year old soon-to-be father, was fatally shot by an armed metropolitan police officer in Streatham Hill in south London. Following review of the evidence gathered so far, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has launched a homicide investigation into Mr Kaba's death.
Voice4Change England (V4CE) is deeply concerned about the police’s conduct in what we deem a preventable and unnecessary death. Our sympathies go out to the Kaba family, and we stand side by side with them in their pursuit for justice and to ensure the truth is exposed and those responsible are held to account.
What happened on Monday 5th July?
Mr Kaba died after his car was hemmed in by two police vehicles in narrow residential street Kirkstall Gardens and one round was fired from a police weapon. The specialist firearms officer fired a single gunshot through the driver’s side of the windscreen. He was given first aid by officers at the scene and taken to hospital where he died later in the night. An Automatic Number Plate Recognition camera found that the Audi being driven by Kaba was linked to a firearms incident in previous days. However, no gun was found in the vehicle, and the car was later found not to be registered in Kaba’s name.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) - an independent body which examines complaints against the police in England and Wales - has initiated a criminal investigation into the killing with the watchdog announcing it is conducting a homicide investigation to establish all the circumstances surrounding what happened. However, they did caveat this by stating that the development "does not mean that criminal charges will necessarily follow".
Kaba Family Reaction
Chris Kaba’s mother, Helen Nkama, speaking through tears, told the BBC on Wednesday: "My heart is broken. I am speechless." In a statement before Friday's announcement, the family added: "We are devastated; we need answers and we need accountability. We are worried that if Chris had not been black, he would have been arrested on Monday evening and not had his life cut short."
Following the news that an investigation were to take place they urged the IPOC "to use all of its powers to make this an effective criminal investigation so the police are held to account" Chris Kaba's father told BBC News the incident was "'totally racist and criminal".
The Met's Assistant Commissioner Amanda Pearson said she "absolutely understands that this shooting is a matter of grave concern, particularly for our black communities". She said: "I also know what a difficult and often dangerous job firearms officers in particular do every day to try to protect the public. "They understand and expect that on the very rare occasions they discharge their weapons they will face intense scrutiny. I don't underestimate the impact on them of this development."
Labour MPs Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy along with rapper Stormzy were just three among the huge gathering of protesters who took to the streets on Saturday, calling for justice for Kaba.
Sky news in error suggested the march was in tribute to the passing of Queen Elizbeth II, however later apologised for its insensitive error.
The Parliament Square protest which ended outside Scotland Yard saw Stormzy make the following remarks during a speech to the protesters. Stormzy said: "Everyone here today, I would encourage everyone to have stamina, and I know it’s a very difficult thing to say… but when these people do these things, they get away with it, because what happens is we do this once, we get tired, we tweet, we get tired, we do it for a week, we do it for two weeks, we do it for a month, and they know we get tired. What they’ve done is they’ve killed someone. We can’t sugar-coat it."
Voice4Change England would like to endorse the comments of South London MPs call for the suspension of Met officer who shot dead Chris Kaba.
It is inexplicable that the officer in question hasn’t already been suspended, and merely moving him out of firearms duties or into back-room duties is an insult to Chris Kaba’s family. If the Metropolitan Police are to sow a scintilla of trust amongst black Londoners and the force, they should immediately suspend the officer and cooperate fully with the Kaba Family. The need for transparency is now more important than ever, so obfuscation of the facts and events which has so often been the reason behind the distrust of Black and minoritised communities. These tensions can so easily be avoided if the Metropolitan Police commit to listening to the victim’s family and community leaders.
Black people make up 8% of deaths recorded in police custody, despite only being 3% of the UK population. It is time the Metropolitan Police, under its new Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, was honest with itself about how far they have to go and how little they have done to earn the respect and trust of Black and Minoritised communities.
Joy Gardner, Mark Duggan and now Chris Kaba may just be another statistic for the Metropolitan Police, but these deaths are symptomatic of the structural racism that exists in the force and a reminder that there has been an anaemic attempt to ameliorate these inequalities. V4CE again repeats its pledge to support the Kaba family in its pursuit for justice.
UPDATE: V4CE is pleased to hear about the suspension of the officer in question and will keep abreast of any developments in this ongoing investigation.