I’m sure you all remember the wave of horror and outrage at the double murder of two black women in Wembley Park, London, earlier this month and the utter indifference of the police who had been told they were missing.
That’s because there wasn’t one – mostly because it wasn’t reported.
Now it has emerged that police officers who were directed to the bodies by the boyfriend of one of the victims – who had gone out to find them himself after the Metropolitan police showed no interest – took selfies of themselves with the bodies and sent the images to members of the public.
Read the end of the above paragraph again.
Instead of carrying out their duty in a reasonable and responsible way, police officers thought it would be a giggle to take photos of themselves with the bodies of murdered black women, and to then send those images to friends – and not just friends in the police, which would have been bad enough, but members of the general public.
There is only one conclusion to be drawn: These were racists who considered Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry to be less than human because of the colour of their skin, and that their dead bodies were therefore playthings to be treated with contempt.
Met police commissioner Cressida Dick has claimed her entire force would condemn this behaviour – but that is not what we see.
We see a police service that is racist to the core.
This is not an isolated incident. It is a symptom of a general pattern of behaviour for which Dick must take responsibility. The organisation she heads is institutionally racist and a figurehead of the systemic racism that plagues the United Kingdom.
For those who aren’t familiar with the details – and I imagine that’s most of you – let’s run over them:
The mother of two sisters murdered in a park said her grief had “been taken to another place” after two officers were suspended amid allegations they took selfies next to their bodies.
Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry were stabbed to death at a park in Wembley earlier this month. Ms Smallman, 27, had been with friends celebrating Ms Henry’s 46th birthday at the park on the evening of 5 June. Detectives believe they were killed by a stranger who repeatedly stabbed them in the early hours of 6 June – their bodies were not found until the following day.
Mina Smallman has complained about the Met’s initial response – saying she had to organise a search for her daughters.
Mrs Smallman said she had coordinated a search operation on weekend her daughters died and it was Nicole’s boyfriend, Adam, who found the sisters’ bodies and the murder weapon.
She says the police were “making assumptions” when they didn’t immediately respond when the sisters were first reported missing.
Police didn’t take the missing persons report seriously, one of the victim’s boyfriend had to find the bodies, and then officers took selfies with the two murdered women and posted them in a groupchat.
Absolutely horrifying. https://t.co/XX3DL0GcES
— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) June 27, 2020
It’s actually worse than that. Did these women die because police refused to take action?
“I knew instantly why they didn’t care. They didn’t care because they looked at my daughter’s address and thought they knew who she was.
“A black woman who lives on a council estate.”
Speaking to the BBC, Mrs Smallman, the former Archdeacon of Southend, said the pictures “dehumanised” her children.
Mrs Smallman said she was told the photos showed the girls’ faces and she fears the images will appear on the internet.
“This has taken our grief to another place,” she said.
“If ever we needed an example of how toxic it has become, those police officers felt so safe, so untouchable, that they felt they could take photographs of dead black girls and send them on.
“It speaks volumes of the ethos that runs through the Metropolitan Police.”
The Met said two officers had been arrested on suspicion of misconduct in public office and suspended from duty.
No-one has been charged with the murders.
The mother of the sisters murdered in a London park speaking now on @BBCRadio4 is INCREDIBLE – cops taking selfies by her daughters’ bodies, family having to find murder weapon. SHOCKING. She says assumptions were made about the girls because of institutional racism
— Katie Razzall (@katierazz) June 26, 2020
Here‘s what Dick had to say for herself:
Dame Cressida said: “I don’t know all the details but if it is as it appears to be then it is shocking.
“It is disgusting and the whole of the Met would condemn what has happened here.
It is not sufficient for Cressida Dick to say the whole of the Met will be horrified by the actions of the police who took selfies with the bodies of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry and then shared on them on what’s app. How has such a culture been allowed to fester.
— Pamela Fitzpatrick (@Pam4HarrowEast) June 26, 2020
How has this culture been allowed to fester? I’d suggest it happened in the same way Dick was able to shrug off questions about institutional racism in the BBC’s report:
Asked if she accepted criticism that there may have been an element of institutional racism in the police response to the double murder, Dame Cressida said: “This is a horrible, horrible double murder of two beautiful young women.
“My heart goes out to their family. It is just appalling.
“We have an enormous investigation, very well resourced and using all the expertise not just in London but all across the country and beyond.”
That’s not an answer to the question.
Was she unable to answer it?
We all know that, after she became Met Commissioner in 2017, Dick called for “tougher sentences” to be applied to “teenage thugs” in London who she emphasised as being “black” and “Asian”, although there is no strong racial characteristic to the crimes she was highlighting.
So, if she is trying to claim that there isn’t any racism in the Met, perhaps it’s along the same lines as the subject of this poem:
Quite brilliant. pic.twitter.com/IR0QCyBIzd
— Rachael Swindon (@Rachael_Swindon) June 27, 2020
We need a root and branch reform of the Met. It is no good attacking symptoms – it’s time to rid ourselves of the cause.
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