A lot remains murky around the murder of Chris Kaba one year on, purposefully so. Over a year on from the killing at the hands of the evermore arraigned Metropolitan Police Service we know little more than we did on that fateful night. The fact that the findings by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) are yet to be made public has been heavily criticised, and with news that the report has now been handed over to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) it is likely that justice will be further delayed.
Whilst the announcement that the officer who shot Kaba would be tried for murder is momentous, it is indeed the first time a police officer has been prosecuted under such a charge. Since 1990, there have been 1,870 deaths involving police in England & Wales, but only one successful prosecution of a police officer for manslaughter in 2021, and none for murder.
This does of course present some form of slow moving and almost resentful progress but what it doesn’t represent is justice for the deaths, nor, a method of preventing deaths occurring in the first place. In order for both justice and prevention to happen I’d argue that complete reform is the only reasonable solution.
We don’t know why specialised firearms officers, who are trained to fire only ‘to stop a real and immediate threat to life’ shot Kaba. He was a man who wasn’t a suspect, but was nevertheless followed and cornered on a road by an officer who shot a single bullet through the windscreen and into his head.
Kaba’s family are still being kept in the dark as to why their son was killed as they continue to fight for justice.
What we do know, however, is that he should still be alive and with his family, enjoying time with his daughter (who was born after his death) and riding high off of the music career that he had been building. We also know that the person who took his life, known as NX121 for their safety, was employed by the state-funded Met police, an institution that has proven with ever more consistency in the last few years that they are structurally at odds with the rest of society, morally bent and irreparably toxic.
There are too many other examples that point to the same pattern of violence meted out by the Met. Just in recent years, a 15-year-old child (Child Q) was strip searched by the force at school and it took three years for the office in question to tried for gross misconduct. In early June 2022 Oladeji Omishore was tasered off a bridge to his death, his family are yet to receive justice. Additionally, this month an officer was under fire for tasering a 10-year-old child.
From these cases, to the sharing of racist images, slurs or mutilated dead bodies of murdered black women via Whatsapp, to one of their own raping and killing Sarah Everard, what is clear about the mounting issues plaguing the Met, is that the only answer is entire reform. In no other instance where an organisation exercises such clear negligence and behaviour that directly impacts negatively those it is supposed to serve and protect, would that organisation be allowed to continue existing.
It is also worth noting that the Met’s failures have disproportionately impacted women and people of colour.
Indeed, upon the year anniversary of Kaba’s killing, it is difficult to be optimistic about the state of things given the issue of police brutality seems to only be getting worse.
INQUEST, an organisation that have been at the forefront of pushing for the truth in cases like Kaba’s, and fighting for justice for Black people who are four times more likely to be stopped and searched by police, seven times more likely to die in police custody, and more likely to have force used against them by state forces, recently published their inquest into police misconduct. The report concluded that, ‘[t]he disproportionality in the use of force against Black people adds to the irrefutable evidence of structural racism embedded in policing practices.’
Another damning verdict was delivered by the Casey Report, which was commissioned following the murder of Everard by a serving police officer to review the standards of behaviour and internal culture of the Met. It found the force ‘to be institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic’. Particularly since the release of the report, the calls for reform, and even abolition, have been irrefutable and constant. Yet, the head of the Met, Sir Mark Rowley, has claimed that the term “institutional” was “ambiguous” and therefore the report was inaccurate and didn’t represent the full picture.
Perhaps if Sir Mark Rowley and indeed his woeful predecessor Cressida Dick had focussed on combating the internal racism, misogyny and homophobia, rather than what language is used to describe its systematic nature within their institution, we wouldn’t be in a situation where people of colour, women and Queer folk were dying at the hands of, or, because of the ineptitude of the Met.
Perhaps it could have meant that Chris Kaba would still be alive to hold, love and share life with his one year old daughter.
The senseless deaths at the hands of the police are sad, enraging and can often discourage us from fighting for change. These sentiments also aid powerful policing bodies. For this reason, it is the responsibility of the living to push for accountability and at the very least reform of the Met if we are to begin honouring the legacies of those killed.
We must constantly believe that we are on the verge of change, and organise to enact it.
Chris Kaba died needlessly and far too young, but collectively we have the power to ensure that his story serves to transform our violent reality. A murder charge is fair for what happened to Chris Kaba, but it doesn't deliver total justice, nor does it bring him back to his family and loved ones.
We must remember that justice requires reform. Let the deaths of all those innocent people at the hands of the Met spark the fire within us to change the system.
Rudi Minto de Wijs is a writer and curator based in South London. They have a vested interest in post-colonial histories both through their practice but also their background, as a child of immigrants to England.
Follow them on Twitter: @Rudi_MD
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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.