Featured »

In the face of the escalating crisis in Gaza, the Society of Black Lawyers U.K (SBL) expresses deep sorrow for all innocent victims of violence, regardless of their ethnicity or …

Read the full story »
Legal Affairs

Access to justice, briefings, campaigns, case law, current affairs, issues, legislation, politics, public policy, polls, research & surveys.


Analyses, commentaries, dissenting judgements, law stories, opinions, profiles, interviews, satire & think pieces.

Reports & Press Releases

Read the latest news from SBL, our activities and campaigns.


Lawyers, law students, law firms, community, barristers’ chambers, bar associations & international affairs.

Student Centre

law schools, careers advice, interview techniques, legal education & training, legal skills, training contracts, vacation schemes, pupillages, mini pupillages

Home » Legal Affairs

Police brutality in the U.S. & U.K.

Submitted by

In mid April, 2014, CNS News reported the U.S. State Department’s evaluation of Malaysia’s human rights record “identified problem areas including abuses by security forces and restrictions of freedom of the press, speech, assembly, association and religion.”

Congress, in its H.Res.109 – Condemns the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights. An interesting comparison can also be seen in 112th Congress, S. RES. 85, Strongly condemning the gross and systematic violations of human rights in Libya, including violent attacks on protesters demanding democratic reforms, and for other purposes.

Protests ensued after unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot dead by a white police officer on Aug. 9. The incident of one of many tragic events that put a spotlight on race relations in America. When protesters set about a peaceful demonstration many were met with violent attacks from police officers (who looked more like armed forces) and imprisonment. Their crime? Lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. Journalists were also arrested and detained for simply doing their job.

Senior US senator for Missouri, Claire McCaskill, remarked, “my constituents are allowed to have peaceful protests, and the police need to respect that right and protect that right.” McCaskill says she had been working to “demilitarize” the situation and that “this kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution.”

Governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon confessed “We all have been concerned about the vision that the world has seen,” admitting that Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis had, come to resemble a “war zone”.

Minorities, particularly African Americans, are victims at an unfair rate, states the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) after it examined the U.S. record, reports The Huffington Post.

“Racial and ethnic discrimination remains a serious and persistent problem in all areas of life from de facto school segregation, access to health care and housing,” Noureddine Amir, CERD committee vice chairman, told a press briefing.

“The excessive use of force by law enforcement officials against racial and ethnic minorities is an ongoing issue of concern and particularly in light of the shooting of Michael Brown,” said Amir.

“This is not an isolated event and illustrates a bigger problem in the United States, such as racial bias among law enforcement officials, the lack of proper implementation of rules and regulations governing the use of force, and the inadequacy of training of law enforcement officials.”

It is the struggle of the African American people that has exposed the actual nature of the US political system. As in the period of the Civil rights and Black Power eras of the 1950s-1970s, the protesting in Ferguson represents a small-scale version of the growing mass sentiment among African Americans, Latinos and other nationally oppressed groups as well as working class people in general.

African Americans, while 13 percent of the national population, constitute nearly 40 percent of the prison population. Moreover, one in every three black males can expect to go to prison in their lifetime, compared to one in every six Latino males, and one in every 17 white males. Thus, black men are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white men. Even though whites and blacks use drugs at roughly the same rates, African Americans are more likely to be imprisoned for drug-related offenses than whites.

Every 28 hours, a black person is killed by a police officer, security guard, or self-appointed vigilante, according to recent studies.

The United Nations said it will look into abuses by the Police of African Americans and other minorities. It condemned U.S. police brutality and called for a review of “Stand Your Ground,” a controversial self-defense statute in 22 U.S. states.

A panel of 18 independent experts questioned a senior U.S. delegation on Aug. 13 about a perceived persistent racial discrimination against African-Americans and other minorities, especially within the criminal justice system.

Among CERD report’s suggestions to curb excessive police violence were better reporting of incidents, accountability for perpetrators, and “ensuring compliance with the 1990 UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officers”. The Basic Principles include a number of provisions, including “Law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms” and “Governments shall ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offence under their law.”

Even U.S. Ambassador Keith Harper had to admit there was a problem. He told the panel that while the U.S. had made “great strides toward eliminating racial discrimination…we have much left to do.”

With Stand Your Ground, the UN panel said it needs to be reviewed to “remove far-reaching immunity and ensure strict adherence to principles of necessity and proportionality when deadly force is used for self-defense.”

“The Committee remains concerned at the practice of racial profiling of racial or ethnic minorities by law enforcement officials, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Transportation security Administration, border enforcement officials and local police,” it said and urged investigations.

Also, the panel, which monitors compliance with a treaty ratified by 177 countries including the United States, said that the obstacles faced by minorities and indigenous peoples to exercise their right to vote effectively must be addressed.

Jamil Dakwar of the American Civil Liberties Union said the U.N. feedback showed “shortcomings on racial equality that we are seeing play out today on our streets, at our borders and in the voting booth.

“When it comes to human rights, the United States must practice at home what it preaches abroad,” he said.

The U.N. report addresses the suffering inflicted by US domestic and foreign policies to the realm of international human rights. To be tortured, spied on, unjustly imprisoned, put in solitary confinement, indefinitely detained, extra-judicially killed by the state, racially profiled, deprived of a home and criminalized for being homeless is to have one’s basic human rights violated and dignity as a human demolished. That’s why there are international laws to protect those rights – laws with which the United States and every nation-state are bound to comply. Even as the United States commonly condemns other countries for their human rights abuses, it has yet to clean its own house.

As in the US, disproportionate levels of force are used by the police when dealing with Britain’s black communities.

Black communities in the UK are also over represented in the prison system; a system which like the US is becoming increasingly privatized. High levels of harassment displayed through stop and search among black people exemplifies racial profiling at it’s best. Though evidenced through a culture of rampant corruption, the UK’s corporate districts are exempt from such suspicion, despite the blatant, and well known misuse of illegal substances.

Many stop-and-searches in England and Wales are conducted under Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (Pace). Until recently section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, permitted police officers to stop and search individuals with justifiable cause. According to the statistics provided by the Ministry of Justice, Asian people were over five times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Black people were seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. However, the use of Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which was originally introduced to tackle football-related disorder is far more prevalent. Under Section 60, police can stop and search someone for weapons, without suspicion that the individual is involved in wrongdoing, providing that a senior officer has a reasonable belief that violence had or is about to occur. The stops under this power can only take place in a specific area for a limited time.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said in some areas black people were 29 times more likely to be stopped and searched. The commission said the disproportion between different ethnic groups remained “stubbornly high”.

The Inspectorate of Constabulary found in a report that police in England and Wales failed to record the “reasonable” reasons for stopping and searching people in 27% of 8,783 cases examined.

In those cases, it found that either no grounds had been recorded or the officer had entered a reason which would not justify a search, such as speeding.

Researchers say the findings, based on government statistics, represent the worst international record of discrimination involving stop and search.

The killing of Mark Duggan is a painful reminder of the enduring culture of institutionalized racism acknowledged following the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993.

Mainstream media would suggest that black and brown people have a genetic disposition to criminal behavior, when describing the culture of black communities, who overwhelmingly live in the worst conditions.

The problem remains that policing is not fair and it is not accountable. Not much progress has been made since King’s famous dream and not much will be made until we can address and eradicate the inequalities and deep rooted racism ingrained within the minds of the majority perpetuated by our institutions.


Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom