On the night of Friday, the 29th September, Selma Taha, Executive Director of SBS, and her friends were verbally and physically assaulted in an extremely violent racist attack on public transport; this included pulling clumps of hair off Selma and her friend and biting Selma’s flesh, leaving a deeply embedded imprint of her teeth which necessitated a tetanus injection and antibiotics.
A Metropolitan Detective Constable was present at the scene but did nothing to de-escalate the verbal racist abuse when the assailant, a white woman, began making monkey sounds, calling Selma and her friends “bitches”, and “slaves,” and subjecting them to other vile racist slurs. Nor did he apprehend the attacker until it turned into extremely violent physical assault.
When the train arrived at the station, the police officer made no attempt to arrest the attacker, instead indicating that he wanted both parties to go their separate ways. It was only after Selma told him who she was and threatened to report him to the commissioner, Mark Rowley that he arrested the assailant. Furthermore, he did not call an ambulance for her and generally showed no concern for the victim of a severe attack that he had witnessed. If the police officer had intervened earlier, the physical pain and trauma Selma and her friends experienced could have been avoided.
Six days on, we have received no updates from the police about their criminal investigation, are still waiting to hear if the attacker has been charged and no victim support has been offered to our director. Instead, the officer in question is receiving welfare support!
As a result of our complaint, the Directorate for Professional standards at the Met have said that the police officer has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct. Black women and girls who do not have Selma’s platform and resources may not have even got this far.
The racist onslaught mounted on migrants and minorities by this government, currently in the shape of Suella Braverman, has provided fertile ground for racists.
Who does the police work for? Certainly not for us.
Thirty years after the Macpherson Report highlighted the Met’s institutional racism and misogyny and confirmed by the recent Casey Report, we have seen little change to restore our faith. At a time of heightened sensitivity and acknowledgment of these issues, it is not unreasonable to expect better policing. Yet again we are being treated as offenders first and victims later.
SBS is actively involved in policing reform with the aim of making it more responsive to the women facing violence from Black, migrant and minoritised communities who come to us. This includes attending regular Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) stakeholder groups including ones on domestic abuse and honour-based abuse organised by the Met and the National Police Chief’s Council.
The Met must answer for its failings. Police apathy amounts to police brutality.