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Campaigner: ‘Pressure cuts deaths in custody’

This article is over 10 years, 9 months old
Tippa Naphtali is the cousin of Mikey Powell, who died in police custody in 2003. He spoke to Socialist Worker
Issue 2247

“Smiley’s case should be a spark to help light up the issue of deaths in custody.

I’m one year younger than him. I had the privilege to meet him. He was such an icon in the 1980s and 1990s, I looked up to him back in the day.

Because no other victim of death in custody has been as high profile a figure, as sad as it is, we need to use the opportunity. We need to raise the fact that this has been going on for a long time.

There is remarkable little mention of deaths in custody in the media. We have to keep it in the limelight. One difficulty for families is that there is lots of support in the early days then it dies away. It is important to keep pushing.

The most recent case of Kingsley Brown in Birmingham shows what is going on. He called the police for help and ended up dead.

In Mikey’s case, the cost of the police defending themselves was several million pounds.

The government talks about the need for austerity cuts.

We are launching a campaign to call for every police officer involved in arrests to wear body cameras. This would cost significantly less than legal and mitigation fees arising from custody deaths.

The introduction of cameras would be protection for both officers and the public alike, and we believe would save lives.

In the years following Mikey Powell’s death we saw a drop in custody deaths in Birmingham because of the Powell Family’s’ focus on police actions, dialogue with senior officers and as a result of Rule 43 Recommendations ( ) issued by the Coroner at the 2009 inquest.

But the number of complaints against the police is growing ( ). A concerted effort is required, keeping up the pressure to reduce complaints and deaths.

The results achieved through the Mikey Powell Campaigns’ efforts are minimal in the national context, but it shows things can be done.”

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