Editorial comment: Why we will give critics of police a voice

A vigil for Rashan outside the Yours Locally shop in Kingsland Road. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

A vigil for Rashan outside the Yours Locally shop in Kingsland Road. Picture: Emma Bartholomew - Credit: Picture: Emma Bartholomew

All things being equal, the family of a dead teenager would accept the verdict of an inquest jury at face value.

All things being equal, no one should have reason to believe they or their friends and family will be treated any differently from anyone else just because of the colour of their skin.

All things being equal, the outcome of a particular inquest or case would have no significance beyond itself, no implications for the relationship between the community and the police; would be greeted without suspicion; would be the end of the story.

All things are not equal.

I don’t doubt the officer known as BX47 lies awake at night replaying the awful moment of Rashan’s death in his mind. Honestly, I can’t imagine the torment he must feel.

But nor – and this should go without saying – can I imagine the torment felt by Rashan’s family and friends.

I wasn’t at Yours Locally on the night of July 22, 2017. It isn’t for me to decide how Rashan died. But when a family and a community – when even a former police officer – have misgivings about whether justice has been done, Hackney’s new borough commander has a problem.

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When campaigners say their relationship with the police has been set back a generation, we must remember what it was like a generation ago: corrupt, racist, violent, toxic. This isn’t about individual officers, many of whom do tireless, brave and good work. It’s about the police as an instutition, and how it is perceived based on past injustices. Memories like these are slow to fade. So if people say their relationship with police is damaged, we must try to understand what is needed to fix it.

The Gazette will continue to give a voice to the Rashan Charles campaign precisely because all things are not equal.