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Police ordered to look again at armed arrest of 12-year-old boy over toy gun

IOPC wants wider exploration of 'racial profiling' complaint

10 June, 2021 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Mina Agyepong has pursued a complaint against the Met

THE Met Police has been ordered to look again at the handling of an incident which saw dozens of armed officers swoop on a family home in Somers Town and arrest a 12-year-old boy for having a toy gun.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has said the force needs to better investigate possible discrimination in what happened in Medburn Street when they responded to a report from a member of the public who said they saw a “non-white” male with a firearm through a living room window.

Mina Agyepong and her three children were held at gunpoint by armed officers at around midnight on July 17 last summer, with two roads closed off and her son Kai kept in handcuffs in the back of a police car.

The family was forced out of the house to stand in the street for almost an hour while a full-scale search of the property was carried out, which resulted in the discovery of a BB gun.

Ms Agyepong later complained, claiming her family had been “racially profiled” and that police responded excessively.

The IOPC has now said the Met has still not carried out a full investigation into the incident and has instructed that one should take place.

IOPC casework manager Christina Brindley said in a report “that it is crucial that the MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] recognises that, where discrimination complaints have been made, the very act of undertaking robust reviews can, in and of itself, be an important step in fostering good relations with both individuals and wider communities”.

In her 11-page findings, she outlined key questions that should be looked at, including why officers continued to point live firearms at the family, including at Ms Agyepong’s chest area, during the entirety of the operation.

“It remains unclear to me why such a high level of force was justifiable in the circumstances. BWV [Body Worn Video] also shows that live weapons were trained on Ms Agyepong’s daughters – one of whom was a juvenile and both of whom were in a state of undress,” Ms Brindley said.

The report also said it believes officers should explain why Kai was kept in handcuffs throughout and why officers continued raiding all three floors of Ms Agyepong’s address when there “were at least two opportunities for officers to have considered discontinuing the search – when the firearms support dog failed to provide any indication and when the suspect firearm was established as a toy”.

Ms Brindley said: “Perhaps most critically, bias and stereotyping may also have been a factor in the decision to authorise a firearms deployment to the address in the first instance and the perceived urgency of the situation. I note that the original informant had expressed some uncertainty about whether the ‘gun’ they had seen had been a live firearm.”

The case sparked a national debate after appearing in the New Journal but police chiefs insisted there was no wrongdoing and that officers had to deal with a potential threat.

Ms Agyepong, who appealed against the police’s first response to her complaint, told the New Journal this week: “My approach isn’t anti-police, I believe the community and police need to work together to improve things.

“A lot of the time they do a good job. If I’m being burgled they’re the first people I’m calling – but when they get things wrong they should admit it. I just want an acknowledgment that they used excessive force. I just want them to be honest.”

Kai Agyepong

She added: “We were sitting at home minding our own business that night. Kai wasn’t waving a gun around in the street. He had a toy gun that’s legal and sold in the thousands in this country.

“I’ve even seen pictures of [Duchess of Cambridge] Kate and her son George who’s playing with a toy gun.”

Ms Agyepong said her lawyers are also pursuing a civil claim against the police. “At the end of the day no one was in danger in my home until police came with their real guns and pointed them at us,” she said.

“They made us fear for our lives and treated us like criminals, even after they saw it was a toy. We have rights and this is a democracy and the police should be here to protect us, but that night they failed.”

Kai and Mina

Her solicitor, Iain Gould, said: “The IOPC have identified a catalogue of failings in the Metropolitan Police’s response to Ms Agyepong’s complaint, and have in effect ‘ripped up’ their homework and told them to go back to the drawing board.

“Of particular note, as highlighted by the IOPC, is the Met’s failure to seriously address the legitimate concerns about ‘racial profiling’ which have been raised by this case, including whether racial discrimination has contributed to such gross use of force.”

The Met Police was contacted prior to publication and asked to respond to the points raised in the IOPC report but said they could not comment fully while the investigation was ongoing.

However, a spokesperson said: “A complaint was received by the Directorate of Professional Standards. “An internal review by the DPS did not identify any misconduct issues, but underwent mandatory referral to the IOPC, as is normal procedure for a complaint of this nature.

“It was subsequently assessed as suitable to be investigated by the Met; this will be carried out by the local Professional Standards Unit of MO19 (Firearms Command).”

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