George Floyd-style killing could happen in UK, says black former chief constable

‘In both societies there is racial injustice – the issues are the same,’ says Michael Fuller

Adam Forrest
Monday 31 August 2020 13:43 BST
Met Police officer filmed kneeling on black man's neck during arrest

A George Floyd-style killing could happen in Britain, the UK’s first black chief constable has said – as he warned that some citizens are not being treated with “due courtesy and respect”.

Michael Fuller, who was Kent Police chief constable from 2004 to 2010, said current police use of stop and search powers was leaving many black people feeling “humiliated” and “alienated”.

He also said there is now a perception within black communities that the whole community is being profiled by the police.

“We have our problems here, there have been mistakes made and we have had our tragedies,” Mr Fuller told The Guardian about policing in the UK compared with the US.

“In both societies there is racial injustice and social injustice in the way black communities are treated in both countries. The issues are the same.”

Asked if an incident like the killing of Mr Floyd could happen in the UK, he said: “It could happen here. We have had equally appalling incidents.”

Black Lives Matter protests have been held around the world, sparked by the May killing of Mr Floyd, a black man in the US state of Minnesota, when a police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes during an arrest.

Commenting on the use of stop and search in the UK, Mr Fuller said: “The evidence does not support that it is effective in controlling or reducing crime. I support stop-search, but it needs to be of the right people and based on intelligence rather than being indiscriminate.”

He added: “The evidence shows that 80 per cent of people stopped are innocent, which suggests it is not being used efficiently or effectively. Those people can feel inconvenienced, alienated and humiliated.”

Michael Fuller was chief constable of Kent Police between 2004 and 2010
Michael Fuller was chief constable of Kent Police between 2004 and 2010 (PA)

Mr Fuller pointed to the 2017 Lammy Review, carried out by Labour MP David Lammy, which found black people experienced higher rates of stop and search and imprisonment.

Police were given further powers last year to carry out “no suspicion” searches as part of a bid to crack down on knife crime. An official Home Office report found people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds were more likely to be targeted by the controversial tactic.

The former chief constable said he was also concerned about apparent “default use” of handcuffs when people are stopped, which did not happen when he was a chief constable.

“All the evidence points to a crisis of confidence in policing from the black community,” he said.

Earlier this month the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has launched a probe into the actions of two Met police officers during the arrest of Marcus Coutain, a 48-year-old black man who was filmed pleading with officers to “get off my neck” as he was handcuffed.

Mr Fuller also commented on the controversial incident in which the Metropolitan Police faced accusations of racial profiling after athlete Bianca Williams and her partner Ricardo dos Santos were pulled from their car in a London street during a stop and search.

“I think from the short video clip the officers look quite menacing,” he said, adding: “I would have thought some of the officers had overreacted … People are not being treated with due courtesy and respect.”

His remarks echo comments made by Rod Charles, former police chief inspector of the Met, last month.

“We are stereotyping the community wholesale,” said Mr Charles. “We do not want to alienate hundreds of thousands of black people simply because they share the same pigment. If we had genuinely intelligence-led policing rates of stop and search would plummet.”

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