Students and local ant-racism campaigners will discuss police accountability for deaths in custody at a public meeting on October 2.
The meeting, organised by Lewisham Anti-Racist Action Group and the Students’ Union of Goldsmiths, University of London, will focus on the death of mental health patient Sean Rigg in a Brixton police cell in 2008.
Entitled ‘Who Polices the Police’, it will feature a short film by Migrant Media and public discussion as to why there have been no successful prosecutions for Rigg’s death have been carried out.
Speakers will include Marcia Rigg-Samuel, Sean’s sister, and a speaker from the campaign group INQUEST.
Rigg, 40, died in a police holding cell shortly after being arrested and detained for an alleged public disturbance. The official cause of death was recorded as heart arrhythmia, despite Rigg’s previous physical health – a finding backed by Independent Police Complaints Commission.
But an inquest verdict in August this year found that police made a catalogue of errors which “more than minimally” contributed to Rigg’s death. The inquest also found that police attempted to cover up the level of force used to detain Rigg, who suffered from schizophrenia.
Ken Fero, the direct of Who Polices the Police, said: “The film poses the question as to if the IPCC is really capable of policing the police. The fact is the IPCC is staffed from ex-police officers so when they come into investigate these deaths, they rarely find any wrongdoing.
“A lot of the time when the family takes on the investigation they do a better job they the people paid to actually do it.”
Matilda MacAttram, the founder and director of Black Mental Health UK, told EastLondonLines there important lessons to be learned from the Rigg inquest.
She said: “The finding in the verdict highlights the perennial concerns about the treatment of people, particularly from the UK’s African Caribbean community, who use mental health services.
“Given that 50 per cent of people who lose their lives in police custody are mental health service users, and black people routinely enter the system via police custody, we know this is an area in need of urgent reform.”
IPCC Commissioner Amerdeep Somal said: “I have no doubt there are lessons for the IPCC from the investigation into Mr Rigg’s tragic death. We will ensure that the IPCC review of deaths takes into account the inquest findings and Mr Rigg’s family’s concerns to see what improvements we can make in our practices to ensure a greater level of public confidence in our work in this crucial area.”
The IPCC has promised a review into deaths in police custody beginning this month.