The Black Lives Matter protests have highlighted concerns about police violence – not just in the United States but here too.
Almost 20 years ago Ken Fero’s film, ‘Injustice’ documented deaths in police custody during the 1990s. Campaigners have petitioned for it to be shown on Channel 4 – but now it will screen at the British Film Institute in London.
We sat down with Ken Fero and Samantha Patterson – who appeared in his later film Po Po, about the death of her brother Jason McPherson in 2007.
There have been 1750 deaths in police custody or following police contact in England and Wales since 1990. The police have never been held accountable for these killings. In recent months, there has rightly been increasing scrutiny on policing and the violence and racism embedded within the institution.
But what is often missing from public discourse is an awareness of the experience of bereaved families who not only have to deal with the trauma of losing a loved one; but who are also then subject to unjust legal proceedings – the cost of which, many have to pay for themselves.
Inquests are the primary way for families to find out what happened to a loved one. They are falsely presented as an objective way to establish the “facts” when someone dies while in the “care” of the state. This includes in police custody, prisons, immigration detention settings and mental health settings.
Lee Lawrence was just 11 years old when his life changed forever. He had fallen asleep in his mother’s room and was awoken by a loud noise. She went to investigate but moments later he heard a gunshot.
His mother, Dorothy “Cherry” Groce, had been mistakenly shot by police officers in an incident which left her paralysed and sparked the Brixton Riots of 1985.
Now 45, Lee remembers his mother crying out that she could not breathe – words which now resonate with those uttered by the black American George Floyd as a police officer knelt on his neck in Minneapolis, Minnesota.