Tributes of Flowers for Chris Kaba

Mind charity clash with Met over Chris Kaba tribute

Mental health charity Mind was criticised by several Twitter users after they posted a thread of tweets about the death of Chris Kaba that aimed to raise awareness around racial trauma.

On 13 September, Mind tweeted: “We need to talk about Chris Kaba.

“The killing of an unarmed Black man by a police officer is hard to bear. Especially when young Black men die disproportionately at the hands of the police [source: Inquest]. The Queen’s death is dominating the news right now, but Chris Kaba deserves our attention.

“Racial trauma is real. And events like Chris Kaba’s death can be incredibly triggering. If you’re struggling with the news, please reach out. We’re here for you.”

Within a few hours of the post, The Metropolitan Police Federation tweeted in a now-deleted post: “Ill-informed commentary from those in positions of power following any tragic incident is unwarranted.”

Several Twitter users, including police officers, commented on Mind’s tweet to express feelings of betrayal towards the mental health charity that works closely with the Met Police and emergency services. 

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “The post Mind shared yesterday was intended to support anyone affected by the news of Chris Kaba’s death. 

“As a charity committed to anti-racism, we understand that people won’t always agree.”

The Met said they would only comment via the statement already made, with assistant commissioner Amanda Pearson saying: “Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Mr Kaba’s family. We understand how concerned communities are, particularly black communities, and thank those who are working closely with our officers.”

Kaba, 24, was shot by police in Streatham Hill on the 5th of September.

An automatic Number Plate Recognition camera indicated that the vehicle Kaba was driving, but was not registered to, was linked to firearms.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) launched a homicide investigation into Kaba’s death and opened an inquest on 4 October.

The lead investigator told the hearing that officers involved were in an unmarked armed response vehicle (ARV) and did not activate their lights or sirens at any point while following Kaba.

Image credit: Claudia Lee

Figures from Inquest show, 204 BAME people have died in police custody or following contact with the police since 1990.

The IOPC’s 2019/20 Police complaints statistics show that 90% of investigations into discrimination complaint allegations were dealt with as non-special requirements investigations.

Only two per cent of discrimination complaint allegations were upheld, across these cases. 

This compares with 11% upheld across all complaint allegations dealt with at the same level.

The Network for Police Monitoring (NETPOL), an organisation set up to monitor and challenge oppressive policing, released a statement last Friday regarding Mind’s tweet.

“If reactions such as this one cause mental health charities to stop putting out similar statements, this is exceptionally damaging.

“People of colour need to know the organisation they are contacting has an understanding of the systemic issues and trauma they face on a daily basis in order to feel safe when seeking support.”

Kevin Blowe, campaigns coordinator of Netpol and board member of Inquest, said: “What Mind said wasn’t particularly controversial – that the death of a Black man at the hands of the police resonates far beyond the immediate family. 

“Many mental health charities recognise that incidents like the death of Chris Kaba is the biggest trigger for young people, especially young black people.

“This is something that the police can choose to ignore and a truth they don’t have to acknowledge.”

The Met police and Mind have worked closely since 2014 when the London Metropolitan Police Service announced that mental health was a top priority for them.

In 2015 Mind launched the Blue Light Programme to support emergency responders.

A South London based Police Officer who has asked to remain anonymous said: “We only ever see people at their low point, that’s when they see us, even if they have called us it’s out of desperation.

“We expected a massive backlash after Chris Kaba’s death.

“I feel like these situations isolate us from the general community because it doesn’t make us seem human at all.”

Kaba’s family have reiterated their call for justice after being shown the body cam footage of his shooting.

The IPOC investigation continues to look into the full circumstances surrounding Kaba’s death.

For more coverage on Chris Kaba by the South West Londoner please click here.

Featured image credit: Claudia Lee

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