For many onlookers it may feel as though the Justice For Judah campaign has taken a back seat whilst awaiting the result of the IPCC investigation. The IPCC investigation was launched immediately after the incident and they will be assessing whether the police actions of tasering community elder and former race relations advisor Ras Judah Adunbi in the face back in January, constitutes gross misconduct.
The campaign team formed quickly after the incident with a launch that saw the Kuumba Centre, a longstanding spiritual home of the African Caribbean community in Bristol, packed out. Since that meeting there have been various strategy sessions under the authority of Ras Judah himself; meetings with the IPCC commissioner responsible for the case Ms Cindy Butts and even a visit to Avon and Somerset’s taser and firearms training facility at Black Rock in Portishead.
“Black Rock was an eye opener, a lot of money has gone into their James Bondish facility, and it was very impressive. All the police on the night were frank and open…But for all the bells and whistles what we see day in day out on OUR streets is something quite different.” Campaign Chair Desmond Brown.
The IPCC recommendation is likely to come in around June and both the campaign team and Ras Judah hope it is the result that they and the community would expect and that Avon and Somerset Police promptly discipline the officers accordingly via an independent public panel. The highest sanction would be sacking without notice. However if it is found to have been a criminal offence the IPCC will refer the case directly to the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) which may take many months.
In the meantime the community at large are left with the question as to why officers under investigation for gross misconduct remain in post. Whilst it is claimed that one officer is working outside of Bristol and the other has had her taser license removed and is assigned to non response jobs, that the officer remains on the streets whilst appearing to hold a clear racial bias remains a major area of concern. As a response the campaign team have launched a petition demanding that Chief Constable Andy March suspend the officers without pay until the investigation is complete, in this way the community can be assured that the force acknowledge the severity of the incident particularly in regards to community tensions and damaged relations. The petition will be placed around the community and can be signed online here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/suspend-the-two-police-constables-who-tasered-ras-judah-1
The campaign team have also taken the testimonies of a number of citizens who feel they have been discriminated against, stopped and searched without reason, violated and in some cases have seen their journey to justice last several years. In response the campaign team have launched a ‘Victims of Injustice’ support group to meet the needs of a growing number of Bristolians who feel that they have been treated unfairly by police both recently and historically. One young man who lives in St Pauls claims he was wrongly tasered last year and that the experience left him badly shaken and wishes that there had been a campaign for him but now feels hopeful for for the future and for justice to be served. The support group aimed at people of African descent in the first instance before opening out to other vulnerable groups such as people of Asian descent and others. The support group will meet for the first time on the 30th of March at the Kuumba Centre on Hepburn Road from 11am until 12.30pm and will be led by an experienced facilitator. As well as providing a safe space for people to talk about and heal from their experiences, it will also inform the creation of a collective strategy in tackling inherent attitudes of sections of the police when it comes to policing people of African descent and others. One of the ambitions of the campaign team is that this will also form the basis of a new community driven charter.
The road to justice is often a long one – The Justice For Judah campaign follows a long line of injustices experienced by people of African descent at the hands of the state. The campaign is determined that Bristol must set a new template for learning and co working that may inspire both the Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Bristol citizens, other cities and indeed other corners of the globe.