The fatal police shooting of Chris Kaba last week has sent shockwaves through a traumatised community. At 24 years old, Chris was studying for an architecture apprenticeship, engaged to be married and on the cusp of becoming a father.
Last Monday night, he was shot and killed by a firearms officer following a police pursuit. We now know he was unarmed and that the car he was driving, which triggered the pursuit, was not registered to him.
It is right that there is a full and thorough investigation into the circumstances that led to Chris’s premature death. But these two facts alone raise difficult questions for the police, questions that Chris’s family will continue to ask.
Other features of the authorities’ handling of this case have raised eyebrows too. It took a week for the IOPC to declare a homicide investigation and the Met a week to suspend the officer who fired the bullet.
These things only happened because of pressure from the family, the local community, and politicians. It is wrong that we are having to fight for baseline measures of accountability and basic information about the case.
It is right that we centre Chris’s family at this difficult time and listen to their requests for body cam footage and a timeline for the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation of the shooting.
Chris’s family are distraught. I cannot begin to imagine the pain and confusion they feel being left to bury a child killed by someone who was meant to be tasked with protecting them. Some closure and clarity is the least they deserve.
Confidence in policing in London continues to reach new lows. Chris is the second black man to die during a police interaction in the space of three months and just one of the 1,883 people to die in police custody or after contact with the police since 1990.
Along with thousands of other people, I joined Chris’s family last weekend to march on Scotland Yard and demand answers. This show of solidarity reflects the fact that his killing was not an isolated incident; it is part of a bigger problem with institutional racism in the Met.
It is incumbent on the new leadership to offer the acknowledgement and action on this that has been so far lacking. But for now, it’s vital that we stand with Chris’s family. Other families have been left waiting decades for accountability and justice. They need our support and stamina for the path ahead.