Chris Kaba’s family, and Streatham’s community, are in pain. The Met Police needs to give us answers.
Chris Kaba, who on Monday was shot dead by police in Streatham at the age of 24, grew up in this area and is very much loved here. There’s a lot of community trauma; people are upset whether they knew Chris or not.
The Met Police is under special measures; we know there are failures. It’s understandable that people would think that Chris has been a victim of racism. Without the information to say otherwise, if you’re from a Black community, it’s an assumption that you’re able to make again and again. Black communities end up being over-policed as citizens and under-served as victims. Should we find ourselves in trouble, we need to be able to trust the police, but people don’t. It just adds an extra layer of oppression.
There’s a long history of the Met Police’s persecutory treatment of minority and Black communities. They are not learning lessons from this history. It seems to be business as usual.
I’m always going to be on the side of my community. There’s an expectation to help calm tensions in my community and it’s difficult when you don’t know what’s happening. Failing to communicate – for example, it took over 48 hours for the IOPC to reveal Chris was unarmed – has brought a lot of hurt and anger. His family have little confidence in the current process and are now calling for this to be a homicide investigation.
The Met Police claim that they’re trying to rebuild trust and confidence, when trust and confidence in this area and in the police in general are at its all time lowest, particularly amongst Black communities. In Lambeth, just 39% of people trust the police to treat everyone fairly no matter who they are, which is the lowest level of any London borough, according to a public survey by the mayor’s office for policing and crime. When you consider the recent case of Ian Taylor, who died in police custody just up the road in Brixton, the kidnap and killing of Sarah Everard last year, the levels of disproportionate stop and search, and the police’s frequently denialist approach to accusations of institutional racism and misogyny, this is unsurprising. This fatal shooting, and their handling of it, will do nothing to restore shattered confidence.
Part of the problem is when IOPC investigations take place, they don’t release any information, so as not to prejudice the investigation. But unfortunately, the media doesn’t seem to think about that when they put things out.
Some in the media are talking about things that may have happened in Chris’ past, and not his present. His present was that he was going to be a father in November. He was getting married early next year, and he had begun an architecture apprenticeship. The press have said he was a drill artist, as if that’s a way of justifying why he may have found himself in that situation, or that he’d been arrested before. But we have to realise that with our justice system, if you’re Black, from a working-class background, you’re more likely to go to jail. Largely negative information has been put out about Chris, and not about what’s happened on the police’s side.
The police and IOPC have to listen to families and communities. There are lots of different community groups that form when incidents like this happen, and yes, the police have conversations with them, but are they really listening? This is not the first time a Black man has been shot by the police. We know that. So why are they not changing their behaviour?
The community in Streatham are obviously completely distraught. There’s a lot of collective grief. But sometimes we can lose sight of the fact that there is a family grieving. While highlighting the issues that surround Chris’ death, it’s important to remember that he is the one who has died, and that his family are the ones who are grieving. We should respect their wishes at every turn.
This article was first published by Gal Dem on the 9th September 2022.