The mother of a 14-year-old Black boy who was thrown to the floor and handcuffed by police on his way home from school in Croydon is campaigning for a change in police stop and search against children.
Janet Joseph, an an insurance administrator from Croydon, is calling on the Government for a permanent change through what she calls – ‘The De-Shaun Joseph Justice Bill’ – A Child Centred Approach To Stop and Search.
On 23 June, De-Shaun Joseph, 14, who is asthmatic, was handcuffed and pinned on the ground by police as he walked home from school in Croydon, South London.
He was immediately released when police realised it was a case of mistaken identity.
Janet said: “The only thing that matched the the description of the suspects the police were looking for was the colour of De-Shaun’s skin.
“When our kids and community don’t have the trust in the system that is meant to serve and protect us, even if you have intelligence, you won’t provide it because you don’t trust them.”
The Crest Report, commissioned by The Crest Advisory, a think tank campaigning for public safety and justice, has published a report which gives Black people’s perspectives on stop and search.
The report shows that 69% of Black adults believe they do not get the service or protection they need from the police and Black trust and confidence in the police is lower than the general population.
This is particularly true among Black Caribbean communities and may be declining across generations.
Janet added: “As a Black parent living in London, you worry about there being a knock at your front door.
“My worst fears were realised, when instead of a knock, I had a phone call from a member of the public saying that my son was being brutalised by three police officers, who had thrown my son to the floor, handcuffed him and knelt on his back.
“I felt helpless, when my son said to me ‘Mum, I thought I was going to die’.
“After this, how can we trust the very people who was meant to serve and protect him?”
Inspired to create change after what had happened to her son, Janet took her Bill to Parliament on 14 July.
She then visited the Deputy Mayor of London for Policing and Crime, Sophie Lidden and the Mayor of Croydon, Jason Perry, pushing for their support of a Bill which will call on the government to change the law around searching children.
She explained: “The emotional trauma caused to my son should not happen to any other child.
“The Bill ensures that children will be treated as children and not adultified.
“Children will be treated with care, respect and understanding go their vulnerability.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “Sadly different crimes tend to affect different groups more than others and it remains a tragic truth that knife crime and street violence in London disproportionately affects boys and young men, particularly of African-Caribbean heritage, both in terms of being victims and perpetrators.
“Equally, areas of London with higher crime levels, particularly violent crime, often tend to be home to more diverse communities, both resident and transient.
“We are very deliberately targeting and putting more resources into areas blighted by higher levels of violence and other serious crime. We use a range of tactics to tackle violence of which stop and search is just one element.
“Working with our communities is an essential part of policing London.”
In reference to the incident, the spokesperson added: “This specific incident is the subject of an independent investigation by the IOPC and as such, we cannot comment on it directly.
“Stop and search is crucial in helping reduce violent crime and take dangerous weapons off the streets. It resulted in more than 4,800 weapon seizures in 2021 and is one of many tactics officers use to tackle violence in London. Stop and search is also a vital tool in preventing and detecting a wide range of additional offences in relation to drugs, stolen property, burglary and other issues which impact upon victims.
“We do not underestimate the impact that being stopped and searched can have, in particular the impact on young people. It is of paramount importance that the use of stop and search is conducted fairly and with dignity.
“Stop and search continues to cause concern within some communities. We are constantly asking our officers to ‘step into the shoes’ of others during stop and search training, and community members are involved in sharing with our officers their lived experiences of having been stopped and searched.”
Featured Image Credits: Simone Frazier