PC Alex MacFarlane: "...you will always be a n*****"
Tension between the police and the BME community is back in the news after a race abuse trial has ended for the second time without a verdict.
Last year's riots - that sparked in Tottenham and swept a significant number of neighbourhoods across the UK - was the setting of an encounter between the police and an African-Caribbean male that is now being heard in the courts.
On 11 August 2011, amidst the chaos of discontentment that the summer brought, PC Alex MacFarlane, along with nine accompanying officers, stopped a car, being driven 'erratically' by 21 year old Mauro Demetrio, who was suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Demetrio, on inspection, was found to have two outstanding warrants, for which he was then arrested. In the course of the arrest being made, various racial slurs were allegedly exchanged between MacFarlane and Demetrio in the back of a police van, some of which were recorded on Demetrio's phone.
Demetrio accepted that he had made abusive comments to the police officers, but stressed that such comments had been made as a response mechanism to both the verbal and physical acts of abuse received at the hand of MacFarlane and nearby officers.
Of the various racially aggravated comments alleged to have been made by MacFarlane, the one that particularly smacks of racism is
The problem with you is that you will always be a n*****,
spoken directly to Demetrio. Such a comment, given the fraught relationship with the police and the BME community, is alarming and raises serious questions about the police force's frontline conduct. Rob Jones, Police Diversity Trainer, has gone on record stating,
No matter what is said in the street, no Metropolitan police officer should ever use that kind of word,
which, according to Demetrio, 'makes you feel not even human.'
24 hours after Demetrio handed in the recorded evidence at a local police station, officers raided his home, seizing a TV and accusing him of being a looter. Demetrio and his family believe it was an attempt to intimidate him and prevent him from taking legal action.
The trial of the case has ended with the jury unable to reach a verdict, which is referred to in law as a hung jury. And while the specifics of the reasoning and deliberations of the jury have yet to be made public, in most of the cases hung juries arise from an inability to reach a verdict based on weak or inconclusive evidence or concerns over the fairness of the law. But when the victim has a substantial amount of recorded evidence, and racist behaviour is always categorically unfair, OBV wonders why a verdict was not reached?
Shockingly, the PC MacFarlane referred to in this account was also found to be involved in yet another incident involving an Afro-Caribbean youth. Earlier this year, the Guardian posted on its website a video of 16 year old Terelle Ferguson accusing the self-same PC MacFarlane of subjecting him to violent treatment allegedly involving 'kicking' him in the course of arrest. Ferguson alleges that the act of assault on him took place while he was on the floor of a police station, with other police personnel looking on. The Metropolitan Police declined to comment following the allegations made.
Reading through the quite astounding details of this case, it can be seen why there can be seen some sense of disillusionment towards the police particularly from the younger generation of today, who are being failed by the conduct of police personnel cited in the above accounts.
Institutional stereotypes and perceptions linger, blighting the next generation in inner-city communities. Some might claim that, given the same officer has cropped up in the high-profile cases, a generalisation cannot be made about the police force, and that it is in fact a case of a few rotten apples in the mix. But that cannot be true when other officers failed to step in, when the Crown Prosecution Service initially declined to investigate Demetrio's claim, when PC Macfarlane has not yet been sacked.
Rather than being isolated to one individual's bad conduct, it is cases like these that reveal how the rhetoric of equality does not align to the day-to-day reality of policing. Whether it be biased stop and search, arrests, DNA profiling, such cases on alleged discriminatory practices within the police can ultimately be seen as a stain on our democracy. As a society, we expect the enforcers of the law to subscribe to a fair and impartial standard in its treatment of all irrespective of background. Let it not be that this remains an ambitious theory and not a reality.
Reports suggest PC Alex MacFarlane is unlikely to face a third trial.
Sarah Nwandu and Philippa de Lacy