A LETTER TO WEST YORKSHIRE’S PCC MARK BURNS-WILLIAMSON AND CHIEF CONSTABLE DEE COLLINS FOLLOWING THE FATAL SHOOTING OF MOHAMMED YASSAR YAQUB
Dear PCC Mark Burns-Williamson and Chief Constable Dee Collins,
In the light of emerging community tensions following the fatal shooting of Mohammed Yassar Yaqub by officers from the West Yorkshire Police on the 2nd of January, JUST is writing to you to express our deep disappointment at the failure of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark-Burns Williamson and the Chief Constable Dee Collins to make a public statement on the incident. Whilst we appreciate that the Constabulary has referred itself to the IPCC where the matter in now being investigated, nonetheless in view of the heightened anxiety levels among local people we consider that taking a purely procedural approach to recent events is unlikely to inspire community confidence. We are therefore seeking clarification from West Yorkshire Police as to what its community communications strategy is going to be in the aftermath of the fatal shooting so as to build trust and confidence in policing operations among ethnic minority communities.
It appears from recent press and media reports that the officers involved in the operation were not wearing body cameras. If true, we are seeking clarification as to why this was the case, particularly as the operation was by the police’s own admission ‘pre-planned.’ We are particularly surprised at the decision as we note from your website statement (https://www.westyorkshire.police.uk/BodyWornCameras) that West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson has invested over £2 million pounds from a ‘Transformation Fund’ to support the latest state of the art body worn video cameras. Given the Constabulary’s belief that body cameras ‘have the potential to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, further improving integrity and the corroboration of evidence by acting as an ‘independent witness’ we are seeking clarification as to why body cameras were not used in this specific operation.
We understand from the police statement that was issued following the incident that the ‘pre-planned operation’ was undertaken on the basis of ‘information received about criminal possession of a firearm.’ We are therefore seeking clarification on what police protocol and control procedures officers were operating to in the conduct of the operations involving Mohamed Yassar Yaqub and his (alleged) friends.
You will be aware that in a recent IPCC Report entitled ‘Police Use of Force: evidence from complaints, investigations and public perception’ outlined negative perceptions from ethnic minority communities on the police use of force. In the context of West Yorkshire, 1438 allegations were made on the Constabulary’s use of force between 2009-14, ranking it among the top five in the country. (see pages 24-25). Under the section Accountability and Recording (see page vii) the Report outlined the following public concerns about police conduct:
- the lack of information gathered before risk assessments were conducted and force was used.
- (the absence of) robust methods of recording and monitoring when police officers use force.
- the use of body worn video … (to) assist with accountability and investigations into how force was used.
In the light of the above concerns, we are seeking clarification on:
- What appropriate information/intelligence and risk assessments were undertaken by officers involved in the operation?
- What are the methods of recording and monitoring used by West Yorkshire Police when officers use force or are likely to use force?
- If a decision was taken not to use body cameras, at what level within the police hierarchy was the decision made and what was the rationale for not having a visual record of the operation. Please let us have your policy document on the use of body cameras in operations involving the West Yorkshire Police.
The 2014 IPCC Report also made clear recommendations relating to the police use of force (see page x). The Report states:
‘To help make sure that the study leads to changes in police practice, we have made a number of recommendations to police stakeholders and the police… A fundamental and underlying recommendation is the need to record, analyse and publish information on all uses of force.’
- Other recommendations include:
- Communications and de-escalation
- Special considerations when dealing with vulnerable groups.
- Training to ensure consistency with national guidance, and specific training in dealing with unconscious bias.
- Dealing with incidents in medical settings.
- Use of body worn video
- Understanding community impact.
In relation to the very clear recommendations set out by the IPCC we are seeking clarification on
- whether these recommendations (and others outlined in Chapter 6 of the Report) were considered and if so at what level?
- whether these recommendations were formally implemented? If the IPCC recommendations were overlooked please explain the reasons why. We would be grateful if you would address each of the recommendation points listed above in terms of action/lack of action taken by the Constabulary.
We look forward to an early response.