My first ever report on the Today programme the BBC’s flagship current affairs show. : A policeman’s conviction for manslaughter this week for killing footballer Dalian Atkinson in a mental health incident has put the spotlight on how police handle mental health. The police deal with over half a million calls outs to mental health incidents every year. And a number of forces saw big increases in call outs last year because of the lock downs and virus. These figures are surging even higher now. Many of these incidents are connected to alcohol and drugs. The police watch dog has called for greater scrutiny on use of Tasers after what it described as disproportionate use against black men and those with mental health issues.
After months of investigation, I broke this story featuring a major UK-wide probe into the sharp rise in police use of force (UofF) during the full national lockdown – April/May 2020 – compared to the same months the year before.
The investigation reached a broad demographic of over 10 million people – from teenagers to pensioners – across a variety of media platforms including online, radio, TV and print.
My first report on National TV this century! Three quarters of forces showed increases in UofF of up to two thirds. Home Office figures demonstrate black people are six times more likely to be subjected to UofF than white people. As development producer and on-air reporter, I obtained data from police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – 37 out of 44 forces . Much of this was not publicly available. Shocking mobile phone footage, filmed by witnesses, that had never been broadcast on TV, or shown in full on any media, provided an alarming episode of police UofF. Three weeks before the death of George Floyd, a young female student was tackled to the ground by multiple Metropolitan police officers. A male officer had his knee on her neck suffocating her while she shouted, “I can’t breathe.” Losing consciousness, she told a female officer that the male officer was “killing her.” While restrained on the ground she was repeatedly punched and kicked by four officers. At the local police station, male officers participated in her being strip searched. Again, she was held down by multiple officers till she couldn’t breathe, and punched repeatedly.
Although this was the only case study featured, my investigation revealed this was not an isolated incident. I spoke to a number of black children and adults who had been stopped by the police in lockdown and assaulted or subjected to excessive force. Watch my headline report on Newsnight on BBC2.
Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are still by far the worst paid ethnic groups in England and Wales according to official figures at the end of 2020. The data from the Office for National Statistics showed they earned over 15% less per hour than the average white British worker. And what’s very interesting is that almost half of Pakistanis – who are the lowest paid ethnic group – have a degree much more than white British people. Having a degree normally predicts high income so something else is going on here. Listen to the interview I and Halima Begum the head of Think Tank the Runnymede Trust did with the BBC Asian Service. And to a female hospital consultant of Pakistani origin tell me about her experiences of discrimination which she believes were caused by her gender and ethnicity.
Azeem Rafiq central figure in the Yorkshire County Cricket racism storm.