Churches call for inquiry into police use of guns

 The Churches' Commission for Racial Justice (CCRJ), have expressed their 'profound dismay' at the latest fatal shooting of a black man in the streets by police. Derek Bennett, a father-of-four, was shot and killed in the afternoon of 16 July. in Brixton, South London when police released six bullets into his body. He had been brandishing what looked like a hand gun, but turned out to be a cigarette lighter. Since 1995, police have shot thirteen people in this way, the majority of them subsequently found to be unarmed or armed with a replica gun. Moderator of CCRJ, the Rt. Revd Roger Sainsbury, the Anglican bishop of Barking, said: "I hope that there will be a full inquiry because this shooting by police will do nothing to increase the confidence of the black and minority ethnic community." CCRJ Secretary, the Revd Arlington Trotman, said: "The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report urged the black and minority ethnic community to trust and have confidence in the police. Yet another fatality by police will do nothing whatsoever to help the situation." "While recognising that the police may have felt uncertainty, having been confronted by the image of a gun, we question the use of guns by officers with intent to kill in such instances, and any racial motive particularly where officers unload six bullets into the victim. We ask whether there could have been an alternative, non-lethal response in this and many other cases." Mr Trotman said: "This incident comes hard on the heals of racial unrest in the northern towns of Bradford, Burnley, Oldham and Leeds, in which police and community relations have come under intense scrutiny. CCRJ has released a briefing paper this week urging all members of these communities, including the police and churches, to now work together to develop long term strategies in which the social, religious and economic needs of the Asian, black and impoverished white communities are positively met by the authorities, and also to combat systemic racism and the racist opportunism of far-right political groups." "As in previous cases, the Brixton shooting could do enormous damage to black community and police relations. There should now be an immediate public inquiry to look at the way that police use firearms and shoot to kill. This inquiry should pay attention to cases where there could be a minority ethnic or racist factor in the death. What we want is to avoid such incidents recurring, regardless of a person's culture or colour." Deborah Coles of Inquest said: "The seriousness of this case warrants an independent judicial inquiry into the death and the wider issues it raises about the quality of training in the use of firearms and the planning and control of such operations. " CCRJ is a commission of Churches Together in England and Wales.

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