David Oluwale was an African immigrant to Britain who was brutally slaughtered whilst in police custody in 1969 and was the first known incident of racist policing leading to the death of a Black person. Since David Oluwale's death in 1969, over 1000 Black people have died in police custody.
At 10:35 pm on 22 April 1993, as Stephen Lawrence and Duwayne Brooks waited at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, they were attacked by a gang of racists. Mr Lawrence, an 18-year-old A-level student was fatally stabbed. Five men – Neil Acourt, his brother Jamie, David Norris, Gary Dobson, and Luke Knight – were arrested but charges against Neil Acourt and Knight were dropped because of insufficient evidence. The original Metropolitan Police investigation - found by a later inquiry to be racist and incompetent - did not lead to any prosecutions. No one was convicted of the killing at the time. Dobson, Knight and Neil Acourt were acquitted after a private prosecution brought by the Lawrence family collapsed at the Old Bailey in 1996. In 1999, an inquiry headed by Sir William Macpherson examined the original Metropolitan police investigation and concluded that the force was "institutionally racist". A total of 70 recommendations for reform were made. These proposals included abolishing the double jeopardy rule and criminalising racist statements made in private. Macpherson also called for reform in the British Civil Service, local governments, the National Health Service, schools, and the judicial system, to address issues of institutional racism. Of course, that most racist of all institutions, the military were not mentioned. In 2002, David Norris and Neil Acourt, were convicted and jailed for a racist attack on a plainclothes black police officer. On 10 March 2006, the Metropolitan Police Service announced that it would pay Duwayne Brooks £100,000 as compensation for the manner in which police had handled his complaints about their actions toward him after the murder. On 7 February 2008, the Stephen Lawrence Centre, designed by architect David Adjaye, opened in Deptford, south-east London. It has since been vandalised many times. In July 2010, Gary Dobson was jailed for five years for dealing in drugs. On 17 December 2009 Independent Police Complaints Commission investigators and officers from the Metropolitan Police's directorate of professional standards arrested a former police constable and a serving member of Metropolitan Police staff on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice by allegedly withholding evidence from the original murder inquiry, the Kent investigation and the Macpherson inquiry. Dr Richard Stone, who sat on the Macpherson inquiry, commented that the panel had felt that there was "a large amount of information that the police were either not processing or were suppressing" and "a strong smell of corruption". Baroness Ros Howells, patron of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, agreed: "Lots of people said they gave the police evidence which was never produced."
On his visit to London in May 1993, Nelson Mandela said Black lives are as “cheap” in Britain as they were under South African apartheid. He was speaking after meeting the family of Stephen Lawrence. Mandela’s meeting and comment contains a valuable lesson for Britons campaigning for justice on behalf of people who have died in police custody. When it comes to such deaths, police seem “to act with impunity” and that black lives are in extreme danger when in police custody. Unless campaigners win international support, police immunity from prosecution will continue. Over 300 people have died in police custody since the introduction of the Human Rights Act in 1998, yet no police officer has ever been brought to justice and the families still seek answers. Inspector Ray Powell is a senior British Police Officer who held the position of President of the National Black Police Association from September 2003 to November 2005 and called for a boycott of Metropolitan Police recruitment campaigns, warning that the NBPA could not encourage black and Asian recruits to join a force that practised racial discrimination. Black lives are in peril when in police custody. The constant rioting is a primal scream against years of bullying, harassment, victimisation, oppression and discrimination in Apartheid Britain.