CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Police officers in Camden face ‘you killed Floyd’ heckles

Borough commander says no officer here would act in same way

05 June, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Raj Kohli, the borough’s most senior police officer

CAMDEN’S police chief has condemned the actions of the US officers involved in the arrest of George Floyd, the bouncer whose death in custody has sparked protests around the world, and has insisted “that’s not how we police in Britain”.

Four officers have been sacked and on Tuesday Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin’s charge was increased to second-degree murder, the other three now face counts of aiding and abetting murder after Mr Floyd’s death on May 25.

Mobile phone footage showed Chauvin kneeling on his neck while he was laid cuffed on the ground. Demonstrations spread across the US and to London. More are planned in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter campaign this weekend. Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli,Camden’s borough commander, said: “First of all let me say this, George Floyd’s death is tragic, it’s really sad. If someone was to do that to a dog there would be uproar and they did that to a human being, all because he had a fake $20 bill. That’s not how we police in Britain.”

“I don’t have any affinity with the officers who did that. It was not an accident, it was reckless and he just didn’t care. He had so many chances to use a different form of restraints and there were four officers with him who could’ve helped restrain him in a different way. We would never put our knee on the neck of someone here, we would just never do that.”

Ch Supt Kohli said he had sent an email to officers asking them to empathise with people and to keep Mr Floyd’s death and the upset it has caused in the forefront of their minds.

“I understand how people must feel and officers should sympathise with that even if people shout at them ‘you killed Floyd’ which can be very upsetting,” Chief Supt Kohli said. “I know people will say those from BAME communities here are much more likely to have issues in police custody or to be stopped and searched, and that is true, the statistics don’t lie. I do hope that the protests going on in America make us take a look at that disproportionality.”

“Unfortunately I don’t have the answers as to why it is but, that’s a long, long, long way from officers hurting someone intentionally.”

The issue of deaths in police custody in the UK has been tense for several years, with the shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham sparking riots which included a night of mayhem in Camden Town in 2011.

“What I do know, is that officers and PCSOs in London do not deliberately target young black BAME men, that’s not how we operate,” Ch Supt Kohli said.

“And the phrase ‘police brutality’ just isn’t right to use here. I look into the eyes of my cops every day and there’s no one there that is thinking ‘I’m going to go out and kill someone today’. These are ordinary people trying to do a difficult job.”

In 2004, Kentish Town Police Station was besieged by protesters after the death of a man during an arrest on the canal towpath. Flowers are left at the spot every May in memory of Kebbah Jobe.

No wrong-doing by the officers involved was found by later investigations. In all, there have been 1,741 custody deaths in England and Wales since 1990 and nobody has been convicted of a crime in relation to any of them.

Ch Supt Kohli said: “Everything that’s going on is definitely having an effect on incidents here, you only need to trawl through Twitter to see the push back officers are getting is worse. A police officer mentioned he had found a stolen bank card on a 14-year-old and the child was repeating ‘I can’t breathe’ and he wasn’t even holding him.”

“Assaults on officers have gone up recently, and what that tells me is that it’s difficult out there at the moment. But when we’re called to any incident, our approach will be the same: we respond to the threat in front of us and not to a person’s ethnicity.”

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