Met Police is accused of ‘lack of empathy’ over its response to armed arrest of boy with toy gun
The CNJ exclusive which a week on has sparked a national debate
30 July, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby
Mina Agyepong (right) and 12-year-old Kai
A COUNCILLOR has condemned the police for handcuffing a 12-year-old boy after armed officers responded to a call from a passer-by who had said they had seen a gun in his Somers Town home.
Police later found a toy BB gun which had been in the living room while schoolboy Kai Agyepong played on his laptop beside his mother Alice ‘Mina’, who was asleep in the same room.
Labour councillor Awale Olad called the force’s response “disproportionate” and criticised the statements made by police commanders in which they have defended their actions and those of their officers.
“There are several levels of problems with the way the police have handled this issue but my greatest concern here is the lack of empathy for the child in question,” said Cllr Olad.
“If this happened to me as a child or even now as an adult with children, I could never forgive or trust the police ever again.”
Cllr Olad, one of only two black councillors at the Town Hall, added: “This was a disproportionate response and could have turned fatal. There’s a real sickness in society when black people are targeted this way and the police need to decide whether they want to be part of the problem, or work to preserve the lives of black people and accept that we matter.”
Kai Agyepong, Year 7 pupil at Maria Fidelis Catholic School
The New Journal’s exclusive story about the incident was picked up by nearly every national newspaper and led to TV and radio coverage.
Camden Council leader Councillor Georgia Gould has called for a further review into the incident.
“A 12-year-old child playing in his house with his family should never have had to go through this trauma and distress,” she tweeted. “This should be independently investigated and lessons learned.”
Meanwhile, Athian Akec, the 17-year-old, elected as Camden’s Youth MP, said: “This is completely unacceptable. Young black people should be able to grow up in Camden without fear of this kind of unfair treatment.”
He has also recently raised concerns about local use of stop and search on the streets.
The Met’s firearms commander Kyle Gordon said his officers had acted in line with their “training and expectations” when they arrived at Ms Agyepong’s door.
Cllr Awale Olad speaks out
He said he had watched the body worn camera footage and determined they had acted professionally , adding: “The reporting member of the public was right to call us and we would encourage others who see similar weapons to do the same.”
But Ms Agyepong, 42, known as Mina and who lives with Kai and her two daughters, 16 and 23, has lodged a formal complaint with the police.
She has described how just before midnight that night Kai was handcuffed on the ground and made to sit in the back of the police car while the rest of the family had to stand outside in their pyjamas. Officers with sniffer dogs then searched their home for any weapons. She called the experience “humiliating” and “terrifying”.
Commenting on the police’s reaction to the story this week, Ms Agyepong, a housing association governance officer, said: “From the minute they got here they were hostile, they [the officers] were mostly from Hertfordshire and Kent as well which shows the lack of community policing going on. They just looked at me like I was a criminal in my own neighbourhood.
“All the statements have focused on the conduct of officers, and let’s be honest I’m sure they acted as they would normally do when they raid a house, but the question should be why were they even there in the first place when it was such an unsubstantiated report?”
“And why when they saw Kai, a little boy, and that it was a family home, did they arrest him and turn our home upside down for an hour?”
“The handcuffs really hurt”
She added: “The police need to start being more honest with themselves about how they police in general but certainly in some communities.
“There’s no doubt they racially profile particularly young black boys. They say they followed protocol, well then they need to review their protocol. In this case, a member of the public made an assumption and they ran with that without hesitation.”
Kai was ‘dearrested’ after the search of the house.
The Met said the incident had “undergone mandatory referral to IOPC [Independent Office for Police Complaints] as is normal procedure for a complaint of this nature”.
Camden’s borough commander Chief Supt Raj Kohli said he was told about the incident on July 22, five days after it had happened.
He said: “As soon as I found out I contacted the council’s youth services and I was reassured that they would make contact with the family to provide any help and support they needed.
“I’ve reviewed the footage of the incident and it was done very, very calmly.
“But, as a parent myself I really feel for the mum and I would be mortified if my son was handcuffed and was accused of having a firearm.”
He added: “I really feel for her, but I feel for my officers too, officers that entered a house believing there was a gun in there.”
A Met statement said: “The Metropolitan Police Service takes all allegations of racism extremely seriously and is clear it has no place within the organisation.”
Lawyer takes up family’s case
Mina has launched a formal complaint with the police
A LAWYER who has taken up the family’s complaint against the Met Police said every member of the public should “reflect” on the armed arrest of 12-year-old Kai Agyepong.
Iain Gould said in an online blog that he was a specialist in claims against the police and that he was happy to take on Mina Agyepong’s case for compensation.
“Major questions will need to be answered by the Metropolitan Police as to how this everyday event escalated into an armed raid, during which deadly force could so easily and tragically have been unleashed upon Mina and her children,” he said.
“Even as it stands, with the physical force being ‘confined’ to the handcuffing of a 12-year-old boy, the emotional and psychological impact cannot be underestimated. For a family to have the safety and sanctity of their home violated in such a way, is literally the stuff of nightmares.”
Mr Gould added: “I am happy to be playing my part in this case, but so too is every responsible citizen who learns of the case and reflects upon it, and asks the questions which hold the police to account.”
Borough commander’s social media defence
Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli defended his officers’ actions
CAMDEN’S most senior police officer has launched a defence of his officers on social media.
Borough commander Raj Kohli has become a prolific tweeter and posted his own views about the armed arrest of 12-year-old Kai Agyepong, hours after the New Journal had broken the story.
“The facts: public call police re: a gun, police respond appropriately,” he said. “Subject was understandably arrested, a BB gun was found, subject dearrested. Not sure what the public think should have happened.”
He was almost immediately congratulated by serving and ex-officers logged onto the site for speaking up. Supporters say the police were right to take reports of a firearm seriously and that officers could not be sure the BB gun was not real. Others said that the story had been hyped up by the media.
During a busy day on Twitter, Ch Supt Kohli “liked” a series of tweets responding positively to his own comments and replied to some less enthused responses with the phrase “hindsight is wonderful”.
He also liked tweets which referenced media coverage, including one that said “this is an appalling headline” and another that said our story was “poundshop agenda driven journalism.”
The toy BB gun retrieved in the police search of the family home
But his own account of the operation and use of the word “subject” for a 12-year-old boy also added to criticism of the response.
Mina Agyepong’s lawyer, Iain Gould, has described the police’s response as “robotic”.
In one Twitter exchange, Sagal Abdi-Wali, the chair of the Holborn and St Pancras Labour Party, told Ch Supt Kohli: “Not much empathy in the statement for what was a very alarming incident that could have turned tragic. In these times, the public’s reaction is understandable surely.”
This week, Ch Supt Kohli told the New Journal that he understood why the story had ended up in the paper. “I don’t for one second believe she [Mina Agyepong] shouldn’t have gone to the press because that’s her right and the press are a good vehicle to hold authorities to account,” he said.
But he added that he was worried about how good officers were being represented.
He said: “I worry that officers will disengage because of the constant criticism levelled at them – some of it justified as we’re an imperfect organisation.”
“But, police officers are not the uncaring brutes they are always made out to be.”
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