A Black man is to sue Dorset police for an alleged racial attack after being sprayed in the face at close range with CS gas in his car – and he has the video footage to prove it.
Femi Ijebuode, whose ordeal at the hands of Bournemouth police was shown on Channel 4 News on 15 March, has been talking to IRR News about the attack in April 2005 and the year of anxiety he has undergone as the police pressed charges against him. He is only free now to talk about his case and show the video because the charges against him, of resisting arrest and assaulting an officer, were thrown out by Poole magistrates on 10 March. As Femi ironically told Channel 4, the only thing he was guilty of was ‘driving while Black’.
Followed by police car
The IRR News team, which has also seen the video (shot from the police’s car-mounted camera and later handed to Femi’s lawyer), has talked to 38-year-old Femi about the incident. On 29 April 2005 at around 4pm, he was driving a short distance to his house in Bournemouth when he had noticed a police car behind him. As he pulled up outside his house, he saw that its blue lights were flashing. Stepping out of his car to meet the police officer, he was immediately asked if the car belonged to him and if he were the registered owner/keeper. ‘ I replied “yes”. He then asked for my full name and address – which I told him, pointing to the house across the street to identify exactly where I lived. He enquired if I had any proof of identification and I responded by pulling my bankcard out of my wallet (from my back pocket) and handing it to him.’ It was at this point, Femi alleges, that the ‘officer’s manner changed and in a hard demanding tone he asked me to spread my hands out in front of me. I complied and obeyed the next directive to get back inside my car. All the while I had been chewing gum, and as I got back behind the wheel of my car the officer asked what was in my mouth. I replied “chewing gum”.’
Mouth searched for drugs
According to Femi, he was then ordered to open his mouth and spit out the gum, which he did. Again he was asked to open his mouth for the officer to check. Again he complied with the request. Then, he alleges, ‘the policeman grabbed my head in his hands and jabbed his fingers and thumbs into my temples, saying “open your mouth, you black bastard”, and “open your mouth, you black c**t”, shaking me all the while like a rag doll.’ Femi alleges that he was further assaulted and racially abused by the officer. During the struggle, with Femi protesting at his treatment, the police officer said that he was under suspicion of concealing drugs, which Femi denied. Then, while Femi was still in the car and the officer outside, the police officer leant into the car and discharged CS spray into Femi’s face.
Sprayed and restrained
Femi says: ‘dazed and reeling from the effects of the spray, I stumbled blindly from my car and into the street’ where he was then restrained by the police officer, with his head ‘buried in the soil’ and then further restrained by up to seven other police officers who arrived on the scene. He was then arrested for possession of Class A drugs and assaulting a police officer and taken to Bournemouth police station where he claims he was treated in a ‘humiliating and degrading manner’ before being bailed.
Formal complaint lodged
Confident of an apology from Dorset Police, he answered bail, only to be told that the investigating officer, the person, who, he says, had attacked and racially abused him, was occupied elsewhere and couldn’t attend. Furious, he lodged a formal complaint against three Dorset Police officers, accusing them of racial abuse and hatred, assault, threats to kill and conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Femi was interviewed by Independent Police Complaints Commission investigators in August and, at end of that month, he received a summons to appear before Bournemouth Magistrates on 20 September 2005 in relation to two charges of assaulting and obstructing a police officer. Significantly, given the genesis of the whole incident, he was not charged with possession of drugs.
Despite a March trial date being provided in December 2005, the main prosecution witness, ie the police officer, had, oddly enough, applied for, and been granted, leave just at that particular time. Even the magistrates asked for an explanation and that the CPS seek his availability. A week before the trial date, and eleven months after the incident, the charges were withdrawn and the case dismissed.
Second case involving CS spray
Femi will now be taking a civil action against Bournemouth police. His experiences are particularly significant as another young man, 21-year-old Dan Ford, suffered first degree burns to his face after being sprayed with CS spray in January 2006, again by Bournemouth police officers.
Angry and defiant
The experience has left Femi indignant at the way he was treated by the police officer and at the mental stress of facing serious charges for so many months. To make his feelings known he has been withholding council tax because he ‘refuses to fund Bournemouth police and prosecutions that waste public funds’. He characterises his treatment by White police officers in Dorset as reminiscent of the abuse of Iraqi civilians by British troops: ‘colonial history, racial injustice and brutal oppression: these are the common denominators that link our experience’.
Read Femi’s blog