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Mounting pressure on Andy Burnham to act against police brutality as watchdog investigate GMP’s tasering of a man in Stretford

Labour party activists have joined the growing number of calls for action on police brutality and an inquiry into Greater Manchester Police’s use of Tasers, especially in BAME communities, following the Tasering of a man in front of his child at a petrol station in Stretford last week.

Labour anti-racist activists have this week joined calls for an inquiry into the use of Tasers by police in Greater Manchester and especially their use in black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, as the Independent Office for Police Conduct(IOPC) launches an investigation into Greater Manchester Police’s Tasering of Desmond Ziggy Mombeyarara in a petrol station last week.

Labour BAME activists from the North West and their allies stated that they were “appalled” at the “brutal tasering” of Mombeyarara, in an open letter calling on Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to take action to avoid “an ongoing escalation in police brutality towards members of the Black community in Greater Manchester and in particular the African Heritage community.”

The letter, which has been signed by over 200 people and is also addressed to Greater Manchester’s Deputy Mayor for Policing, Crime and Fire, Baroness Beverley Hughes, and Leader of the Labour party Keir Starmer, makes a series of demands of Labour leaders, including the “suspension of the officer/s involved” in the incident, and for Baroness Hughes to meet with BAME groups and councillors to talk through the incident and assure BAME communities that Greater Manchester Police is meeting its Public Sector Equality Duty.

The letter also calls for a separate independent inquiry into “the use of Tasers by GMP Officers and especially their use in BAME Communities” and “the effectiveness of the use of Tasers and the training given to officers in the use of Tasers and alternative forms of action to defuse situations.”

The signatories urged Mr Burnham and Baroness Hughes to give police use of Tasers serious thought and focus “so that we do not have a repeat of these disturbing scenes.”

This letter joins growing public criticism of both this incident and the racially disproportionate use of Tasers in Greater Manchester and in the UK more generally. Analysis of Home Office figures shows black people in England and Wales are almost eight times more likely to be Tasered by police than white people.

“It is vital that the BAME community has confidence in policing, especially under the current COVID challenges where the BAME community are already disproportionally adversely impacted,” the letter says.

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It has been reported that Mombeyarara was stopped by police outside a petrol station in Stretford on 6 May after allegedly driving over the speed limit. Mr Mombeyarara later pleaded guilty to a number of charges after appearing at Manchester Magistrates’ Court, including speeding, drink-driving, and unnecessary travel.

The incident has raised questions about police brutality against BAME people in Greater Manchester, after mobile phone footage of Mr Mombeyarara’s arrest circulated widely on social media. The footage shows two police officers deploying a Taser on Mr Mombeyarara in front of his young child.

Ekua Bayunu, an activist who edited the letter, described her horror of seeing the video to The Meteor. “I awoke to the ping in one of my WhatsApp threads. It was the video of Desmond Ziggy Mombeyarara being tasered, within inches of his small, clearly distressed child. “Daddy, daddy!” The child’s screams haunt me still.”

“As an African heritage mother of two children,” Ms Bayunu said, “I felt this viscerally, painfully and personally — and I knew I had to act”.

“This was not the first time I had been aware that tasers were being used within my community across the UK,” she said. “But it was the second time where the new laws around the Covid-19 pandemic empowering police to either threaten or use tasers were caught on camera on the streets where I live. Where my family, friends and neighbours are struggling, like all of us around the country, to live with the lock in.

“The overwhelming evidence is that we [members of African, Arab and Asian communities] are dying in disproportionately large numbers whilst we are working to serve this nation without adequate protection. Yet still the police are finding ways to attack us.”

Responding to the letter, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) told The Meteor it had taken action “immediately” when it heard about the incident by asking Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable “to investigate what had happened and called for an urgent and independent review to be carried out.

“The IOPC have today confirmed they are investigating and we’re in touch with both GMP and the IOPC about the progress of that investigation,” GMCA said. “We will be in touch with the activists who have raised their concerns with us once we have further information we can share with them.”

GMP confirmed to The Meteor that it had requested the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) launch an inquiry into the incident last week. Assistant Chief Constable, Rob Potts, told The Meteor: “I voluntarily referred this matter to the IOPC to ensure transparency and independence in terms of reviewing the circumstances of the arrest.

“At this time the IOPC is independently investigating this matter and as such it would be inappropriate for us to comment any further.”

GMP sought to reassure the people of Greater Manchester that it was “absolutely committed” to fairness and equality. “We serve one of the most culturally diverse areas in the United Kingdom and it is important to us that we demonstrate a commitment to equality, diversity and human rights in order to earn the confidence and trust of all our communities.

“That trust is a vital element in GMP protecting society and helping keep people safe across all our communities,” the force said. “We are involved in constructive dialogue with community representatives in relation to this incident.

“We await the findings of the IOPC investigation and will take appropriate action wherever necessary.”

Alex King

The full text of the open letter is published online and the text, minus the signatories, is included below:

We demand: 

  • That the officer/s involved be suspended immediately pending an independent investigation. This should be seen as being a neutral act but one there to help with rebuilding confidence between the GMP and  BAME communities. 
  • That Metro Mayor, Andy Burnham, as the responsible person takes transparent action  to ensure that we do not see an ongoing escalation in police brutality towards members of the Black community in Greater Manchester and in particular the African Heritage community who are suffering extreme levels of Afriphobia at this time. 
  • That Deputy Mayor, Baroness Beverly Hughes meets with BAME groups and councillors within 2 weeks to talk through this incident and assure the BAME communities that GMP are meeting their Public Sector Equality Duty. 
  • That concerns are shared at national level that during the Pandemic, there has been a return to increased inappropriate policing of BAME communities due to pre-existing racial bias.
  • That Keir Starmer, our  Labour Party Leader and Leader of the Opposition, leads in ensuring that this matter is addressed by the government as a matter of urgency, so that we do not see an escalation in the use of Tasers on African heritage people or any other community.
  • That support be given to the arrested person, his child, his wider family and friends following the acute and ongoing distress caused by actions of the officers of GMP.

We endorse calls for an independent enquiry to be set up with immediate effect. 

The focus on the enquiry should be on:

  • An analysis of data about the use of Tasers by GMP Officers and especially their use in BAME Communities.
  • The effectiveness of the use of Tasers and the training given to officers in the use of Tasers and alternative forms of action to defuse situations.
  • How Guidelines around the welfare of children and other vulnerable people are implemented by GMP, any training given and the effectiveness of the training and the guidelines.
  • A detailed report into the use of Tasers in this particular incident, the effect on the arrested person, his child, his wider family, friends and BAME Communities.
  • We demand that the Police Commissioner commits to an independent enquiry that is timely and thorough, and produces a set of actions for implementation that will be properly resourced.

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