by Deji Olayinka, South West London Socialist Party
A year after the awful police killing of unarmed father-to-be Chris Kaba, an armed police officer has been charged with his murder.
Despite the start of an ongoing court case, Tory home secretary Suella Braverman responded to the charges with a statement expressing concern about officers “ending up in the dock for carrying out their duties”. Braverman’s suggestion that killing an unarmed man is part of police ‘duties’ is an attempt to sway public opinion, to delegitimise the family’s justice campaign and turn the case into another frontier for the Tories’ reactionary ‘culture war’.
The majority of people see police ‘duties’ very differently. For most of us, the police are the only option to turn to when we are victims of crime. Increasingly, due to cuts, police are unable to actually help. Home Office statistics found that the proportion of crimes (excluding fraud and computer misuse) resulting in a charge and/or summons this year was 5.7%, compared to 16% in 2015.
In contrast, resources have often been found to attack peaceful protestors. We have seen violence by police during Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, the 2010 student protests, the 1984-85 miners’ strike and many more. In reality, the police play a dual role in society. They are part of a state apparatus which is not neutral, but ultimately exists to defend the existing capitalist order, which is based on the exploitation of the working-class majority by a tiny highly privileged elite.
However, in order to be able to play its role as part of the capitalist state effectively, public confidence in the institution of the police is needed. The above statistics alongside multiple scandals, including the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer and examples of racist policing, have weakened people’s faith in the policing system. One survey has found that 51% of Londoners don’t trust the Met. The Metropolitan Police has been found to be institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic by official reports.
The murder charge, therefore, comes with the police, the Met in particular, under popular pressure, including from Chris Kapa’s family’s hard-fought campaign. An inquest heard that “officers did not activate their lights or sirens” and that Kaba was not a suspect. Given these reports and bodycam footage, if the officer was “carrying out their duties” then it’s further condemnation of the policing system.
However, following the murder charge, Braverman called for a review into policing to ensure firearms officers have the “confidence to do their jobs”, and Met leader Mark Rowley also called for “sufficient legal protections” for the police. This points to an attempt to add further barriers to prevent justice in this case and others.
Attempts to increase barriers to justice must be fought against. Justice campaigns must be linked up, and join with fighting trade unions to demand change. In the case of Child Q (see ‘Child Q strip search outrage: Racism, sexism, police and profit out of schools’) the Socialist Party points out the important role the National Education Union could play in ensuring the safety of children from the police. Following a racist attack in a school in Surrey, a Socialist Party member pushed for trade union intervention against racism (see ‘Surrey community condemns brutal racist attack on pupil’).
Ultimately, reviews and inquiries run by the establishment won’t get the change we need; we must demand independent workers’ and community-led inquiries into police violence. Such an inquiry should include the experiences of young Black people, regularly harassed by the police using racist stop-and-search powers.
And to prevent further police killings, racism and brutality we need to establish a new policing system. The Met should be abolished. We need complete demilitarisation of the police and abolishment of the paramilitary units, such as the Territorial Support Group.
We must demand proper, democratic control of the police by working-class communities and local trade unions through elected bodies of elected representatives from trade unions and community groups. These bodies would be able to direct police operations and priorities, including having responsibility for all appointments, disciplinary measures and dismissals, as is demanded in our Black workers’ charter (see ’Black workers charter 2023: a programme for fighting racism’).
The fight to end racism and police violence also means fighting to end profit-driven capitalism that depends on racism and division, and for a socialist alternative based on democratic workers’ control of society.