Chris Kaba’s cousin says police watchdog response lacks urgency

Jefferson Bosela, family spokesperson, says IOPC’s timeline for homicide investigation too long

“He was the life of the party, you know, everywhere he went, he didn’t shy away from showing the people he cared for that he cared for them,” says Jefferson Bosela, describing his cousin Chris Kaba. “He was a big brother, he was a fiance, he was a dad-to-be, so he had so much going for him, which makes this tragedy all the worse.”

On 5 September, Kaba was driving through Streatham, south London, when the vehicle was flagged by automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) before being pursued and intercepted by two Metropolitan police cars.

After performing a “controlled stop”, the police vehicles boxed in Kaba in Streatham Hill. A single bullet was then shot through the windscreen on the driver’s side, hitting Kaba in the head. He died two hours later in hospital. It was later confirmed that Kaba was unarmed, and that the car he was driving was not registered to him.

Although the officer involved, who has now been suspended, was initially treated as a witness, the Independent Office for Police Conduct launched a homicide investigation. On Friday evening the IOPC said it would consider whether race influenced any actions taken by the police.

Bosela, who has become the family’s spokesperson and taken the helm of the Justice for Chris Kaba campaign, has maintained that the response to the incident from the IOPC has lacked urgency, citing the watchdog’s response to the family’s questions, and saying its six- to nine-month timeline for the homicide investigation was too long.

“I don’t think the IOPC have been necessarily helpful,” Bosela says. “We’ve been asking them very simple questions from the outset, such as whether the car was registered to Chris, and if the car was searched, whether a weapon was in the car. And we didn’t find out the answer to these questions until later.”

“We’ve only met twice face to face … Other than that it’s been over the phone and few and far between,” Bosela adds. “We’re not really getting regular updates, although they are saying that they are. A lot of the questions that we’re asking are going unanswered and when they do answer them, the answers are pretty vague. It hasn’t been the best experience for me or my family in regards to our relationship with the IOPC.”

On Wednesday, the IOPC confirmed that Kaba’s family would be able to watch a police video from the night he was killed, which they will do next week. Although the watchdog has denied that it buckled under pressure from both Kaba’s family and the public when originally launching the homicide investigation, Bosela does not believe this to be the case. “I think that if there wasn’t any pressure, they would be taking their time,” Bosela adds. “I think without pressure they wouldn’t have much incentive to.”

Deborah Coles, the executive director of Inquest, which has been supporting Kaba’s family, said: “I think the most important thing is that this needs to be a prompt and effective investigation. We cannot tolerate the excessive delays that have been so familiar in all the other investigations that other families have gone through.”

Bosela recently resigned from his role as a head of year at a London secondary school to focus on the campaign.

On Saturday protests will be held across the country including London, Manchester and Cardiff as part of a national day of action. It follows protests last week, which included support from public figures such as Stormzy and Labour MPs Bell Ribeiro-Addy and Harriet Harman.

Bosela said that although the family’s contact with the Met had been limited, some of officers had expressed their sympathies to them about what had happened.

“There have been some officers, when we’ve gone to protest, who have said that they are just as angry as we are, and that they want answers and a swift investigation as well,” Bosela says. “So that has been to a certain extent reassuring when we’ve heard certain police officers say that.”

There are still many questions that remain unanswered about what happened on the night Kaba was killed. The family have said they now want to know whether the Met knew it was Kaba driving the car as it was not registered to him; they want the officer under suspension to be interviewed under caution as soon as possible; and they want a charging decision within weeks.

But despite the grief and heartbreak the family are experiencing, Bosela said the support they had received had been overwhelmingly positive. “The public support has lifted my spirits,” Bosela said. “It has made us as a family feel appreciated, valued and loved. What more could we ask for, it’s been so surreal. As much as this has been a tragic story, the togetherness and the unity and the solidarity which has been shown to the family has been beautiful.”


Tobi Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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