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Sean Rigg: why did it take four years to get to the truth?

The family, friends and supporters of Sean Rigg, a black musician from Brixton, have finally heard some of the facts surrounding his death at the hands of police officers in August 2008. Jeremy Dewar writes

It has taken four years of hard work – against official indifference and cover-up – to secure a verdict that the police used “unsuitable” force to detain Sean. The coroners’ jury overturned the “findings” of the Independent Police Complaints Commission that whitewashed the officers. The IPCC has now reluctantly agreed to a review of its original investigation.

Make officers accountable

The family said in a statement after the verdict:

For the IPCC to conclude in their findings that ‘the officers adhered to policy and good practice by monitoring Mr. Rigg in the back of the van’ is absolutely absurd, flies in the face of the evidence and clearly contradicts the jury’s narrative verdict… However, we absolutely insist that the review is a root-and- branch examination of the IPCC’s investigation and that it is transparent, robust and effective, so that officers are made accountable for Sean’s death.

The urgency of this was cruelly underlined just a few days later when police arrested and detained another black man, Freydoon Baluch. Luckily this time a passer-by filmed the incident, while others came to his assistance. One of them said:

Three officers were holding this man. They pushed him to the ground. One officer choked him by holding his forearm across the man’s throat. Then another officer stamped on him. The foot was on his face and then the man passed out – we kept telling them to call an ambulance.

Footage shows that the man offered no resistance and was immobile.

Police immunity

These assaults are no random coincidence. They form a pattern of behaviour. Ian Tomlinson, Smiley Culture, Christopher Alder, Anthony Grainger… and many more have all died at the hands of the police. Yet not a single officer has been found guilty, few have been disciplined, a couple promoted.

What kind of democracy systematically allows a section of the population to kill people with immunity?

Slow justice is no justice! We demand that truly independent inquiries – answerable to local communities, the families of those who have died, and the labour movement – are set up with full powers to interrogate officers and sentence those found guilty of racism, bodily harm or murder.

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