Deeper look at gun arrest would be helpful for all

Thursday, 10th June 2021


‘Kai Agyepong was taken away in handcuffs after he was seen with a toy gun’

THE handling of the “arrest” of a 12-year-old boy in Somers Town last summer has raised worrying questions, even if you feel the firearms officers who stormed into his family’s home had done nothing wrong, (Police ordered to look again at armed arrest of 12-year-old boy, June 10).

The incident sparked a debate that raged for several weeks: how should police respond if they are told that a gun has been spotted?

But the nigh-on absolute refusal that things could have been tackled differently, only served to breed suspicion.

From a very early stage police seemed certain there was little room for criticism. Within just days of the incident, Camden’s police chief tweeted: “The facts: public call police re: a gun, police respond appropriately.”

The family too was told very quickly – and flatly – that the raid had been acceptable and no further action was required.

The case had been decided, then, open and shut. The family must have felt that a drawbridge was being raised up against them.

Intentional or not, the police response to the family’s complaint came across as bellicose and confrontational, as if there could not possibly be another side to the story.

Almost a year later, the Met has been asked to investigate the chain of events again and a list of questions has emerged, not just from the family or the New Journal, but from the police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

It is the IOPC which is asking for the possibility of racial profiling to be at least considered.

Would a white 12-year-old boy in Hampstead have been handcuffed for so long in the back of a police car; his mother left standing in the street while armed officers turned over their home?

Did racial profiling lead to live weapons being trained at Ms Agyepong’s 15-year-old daughters in her own home? Why did the humiliating search continue, for an hour, even after the sniffer dogs had found nothing?

These are uncomfortable questions, of course, but it is healthy that the IOPC is seeking answers to them. Perhaps they are issues that should already have been looked at.

It may be that everybody involved can show that the concerns of Kai Agyepong’s mother Mina are unwarranted.

Why should they then fear a wider examination of the facts? It is unfortunate that Mina has felt she has had to struggle against an uncaring system to get this far.

When she raised concerns over such a dramatic event – one about which Camden Council’s leader also expressed concern – the police could have gained much credit by pledging there and then to look in depth at all of the issues raised by the case.

It is rare for the IOPC to be so forthrightly critical as it was over the minimal steps taken by the Met so far. The very least the family deserve is an exhaustive response to their fears.

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