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Police accused of ‘lack of empathy’ over armed arrest of 12-year-old boy with toy gun

Leader of the council Georgia Gould is pushing for an independent investigation into the incident

28 July, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Kai Agyepong is 12

A COUNCILLOR has condemned the police for handcuffing a 12-year-old boy after armed officers responded to a call from a passer-by who had said they had seen a gun in his Somers Town home.

Police later found a toy BB gun which had been in the living room while schoolboy Kai Agyepong played on his laptop beside his mother Alice, who was asleep in the same room.

Labour councillor Awale Olad called the force’s response “disproportionate” and criticised the statements made by police commanders in which they have defended their actions and those of their officers.

“There are several levels of problems with the way the police have handled this issue but my greatest concern here is the lack of empathy for the child in question,” said Cllr Olad.

“If this happened to me as a child or even now as an adult with children, I could never forgive or trust the police ever again.

Cllr Awale Olad believed police have lacked empathy in their response

Cllr Olad, one of only two black councillors at the Town Hall, added: “This was a disproportionate response and could have turned fatal. There’s a real sickness in society when black people are targeted this way and the police need to decide whether they want to be part of the problem, or work to preserve the lives of black people and accept that we matter.”

The New Journal‘s exclusive story about the incident was picked up by nearly every national newspaper and led to TV and radio coverage.

Camden Council leader Councillor Georgia Gould has called for an inquiry into the incident.

“A 12 year old child playing in his house with his family should never have had to go through this trauma and distress,” she tweeted. “This should be independently investigated and lessons learned.”

The Met’s firearms commander Kyle Gordon said his officers had acted in line with their “training and expectations”.

He said he had watched the body worn camera footage and determined they had acted professionally , adding: “The reporting member of the public was right to call us and we would encourage others who see similar weapons to do the same.”

“There’s no doubt they [the police] racially profile particularly young black boys”, says Ms Agyepong

Camden’s own borough commander Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli uploaded a series of tweets about the incident, all defending the police’s actions. In his account of the incident, he referred to Kai as a “subject”, adding: “Not sure what public think should have happened and FYI I have never understood need for BB guns.”

He called it a “wonderful example of sensitive and empathetic policing” in the circumstances saying he “could not be prouder of those colleagues”.

He then liked tweets which had liked his own comments.

In anothe tweet, Chief Supt Kohli said: “As soon as I became aware of this case I made relevant people aware in terms of family support. The police really are not uncaring – in fact colleagues cared so much they entered a property thinking they might face a gun.”

Ms Agyepong, 42, known as Mina and who lives with Kai and her two daughters, 16 and 23, have lodged a formal complaint with the police.

She has described how just before midnight that night Kai was handcuffed on the ground and made to sit in the back of the police car while the rest of the family had to stand outside in their pyjamas. Officers with sniffer dogs then searched their home for any weapons. She called the experience “humiliating” and “terrifying”.

Commenting on the police’s reaction to the story this week, Ms Agyepong, a housing association governance officer, said: “From the minute they got here they were hostile, they were mostly from Hertfordshire and Kent as well which shows the lack of community policing going on. They just looked at me like I was a criminal in my own neighbourhood.

“All the statements have focused on the conduct of officers, and let’s be honest I’m sure they acted as they would normally do when they raid a house, but the question should be why were they even there in the first place when it was such an unsubstantiated report? And why when they saw Kai, a little boy, and that it was a family home, did they arrest him and turn our home upside down for an hour?”

The toy gun that was in the living room at the time of the arrest

“I am really struggling to see how they can justify that level of force,” she added.

“I’ve not heard anything from the police. I had to ring them the next day, they didn’t ring me. And since, we’ve not had any support. So no, I don’t feel like they’ve ever shown empathy or an ounce of respect towards me and my family.

“The police need to start being more honest with themselves about how they police in general but certainly in some communities. There’s no doubt they racially profile particularly young black boys.

“They say they followed protocol, well then they need to review their protocol. In this case, a member of the public made an assumption and they ran with that without hesitation. ”

Kai was ‘dearrested’ after the search of the house. The Met said the incident had “undergone mandatory referral to IOPC [Independent Office for Police Complaints] as is normal procedure for a complaint of this nature”.

Ms Agyepong added: “I’ve only been able to start processing it really recently and when I think of who reported it I worry it is a neighbour or someone with a grudge of some kind. But, if it’s just someone random I think I’d just ask that they reassess how they judge others and ask themselves if they would’ve made the same call had it been a young white boy they’d seen through the window.

“It was a family home, with not screaming or signs of violence, and within a moment the police were in my home pointing guns at us. It just goes to show assumptions can cost people their lives.”

Chief Supt Kohli said he was told about the incident on July 22, five days after it had happened.

He said: “As soon as I found out I contacted Martin Pratt and Eugene Griffin in charge of the council’s youth services and I was reassured that they would make contact with the family to provide any help and support they needed.

“I’ve reviewed the footage of the incident and it was done very, very calmly. But, as a parent myself I really feel for the mum and I would be mortified if my son was handcuffed and was accused of having a firearm.

“I don’t for one second believe she shouldn’t’ve gone to the press because that’s her right and the press are a good vehicle to hold authorities to account.

“I really feel for her, but I feel for my officers too, officers that entered a house believing there was a gun in there,” he added.

“I worry that officers will disengage because of the constant criticism levelled at them – some of it justified as we’re an imperfect organisation. But, police officers are not the uncaring brutes they are always made out to be.”

A Met statement said: “Public safety is always a priority for our officers. They face daily challenges making difficult and fast-time decisions while not being in possession of all the information that subsequently transpires. The Metropolitan Police Service takes all allegations of racism extremely seriously and is clear it has no place within the organisation.

“Where we need to review or investigate the conduct of individual officers we will do, as we understand this is essential for community confidence around impartiality.”




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