What Stephen Lawrence Has Taught Us

We know who the killers are,
We have watched them strut before us
As proud as sick Mussolinis',
We have watched them strut before us
Compassion less and arrogant,
They paraded before us,
Like angels of death
Protected by the law.

It is now an open secret
Black people do not have
Chips on their shoulders,
They just have injustice on their backs
And justice on their minds,
And now we know that the road to liberty
Is as long as the road from slavery.

The death of Stephen Lawrence
Has taught us to love each other
And never to take the tedious task
Of waiting for a bus for granted.
Watching his parents watching the cover-up
Begs the question
What are the trading standards here?
Why are we paying for a police force
That will not work for us?

The death of Stephen Lawrence
Has taught us
That we cannot let the illusion of freedom
Endow us with a false sense of security as we walk the streets,
The whole world can now watch
The academics and the super cops
Struggling to define institutionalised racism
As we continue to die in custody
As we continue emptying our pockets on the pavements,
And we continue to ask ourselves
Why is it so official
That black people are so often killed
Without killers?

We are not talking about war or revenge
We are not talking about hypothetics or possibilities,
We are talking about where we are now
We are talking about how we live now
In dis state
Under dis flag, (God Save the Queen),
And God save all those black children who want to grow up
And God save all the brothers and sisters
Who like raving,
Because the death of Stephen Lawrence
Has taught us that racism is easy when
You have friends in high places.
And friends in high places
Have no use whatsoever
When they are not your friends.

Dear Mr Condon,
Pop out of Teletubby land,
And visit reality,
Come to an honest place
And get some advice from your neighbours,
Be enlightened by our community,
Neglect your well-paid ignorance
We know who the killers are.

Benjamin Zephaniah


Recently you wrote briefly about the Paul Chase shooting. I still regard this killing as one of the Police's biggest foul-ups that was allowed, by the powers-to-be, to be concealed from public scrutiny.

Summarising, Chase was identified as being responsible for the firing of a shotgun into the ceiling of a crowded bar. No one was injured resulting from the shooting. Police inquiries to locate him immediately were unsuccessful. One policeman regarded Chase as dangerous from a previous dealing with him. This policeman's opinion sealed Chase's fate. There was never any evaluation by the Police of this policeman's reasons for regarding Chase in this light. This opinion can relate to any number of circumstances not necessarily related to the use of firearms. Nevertheless, Chase was placed in the "dangerous" category from that moment until he died.

The hotel shooting incident took place late on Thursday night. The Police located Chase's flat on Saturday morning. The Armed Offenders raided Chase's flat at 7 a.m. on the Monday morning - 4 days after the event. The Police worked on the wrong assumption that a person under the influence in a hotel on a Thursday night, who terrorises a bar by firing a shotgun into the ceiling, is likely to be still under the influence, and reacting violently, in bed with his wife and child at 7 a.m. in the morning 4 days later. How many people do you know who are likely to behave like that? The Police were of the opinion that Chase was going to be violent in an environment completely in contrast as to when the offence occurred!

The Police offer the explanation that at the time the flat was raided the shotgun used in the hotel had not been recovered. If this was the case, surely forcibly entering a flat was placing the Police at risk from being fired upon? Not a good option eh - from the Police point of view.

The occupants of the flat were known by the Police long before entry was made. They knew Chase was the only Maori male occupant of the flat, because as soon as he was seen, and was seen to be acting threateningly to the Police, he was shot at. Is that a correct assumption to make, or were the Police fortunate (and Chase unfortunate), that subsequent events prove to show that the Police shot at and killed the person they were after? Would the Police, in the normal course of events considering the circumstances, have carried out the dawn raid if the suspects were white as were the wife and child? I say not! Do the Police disregard normal and cautious planning when dealing with Maoris especially when care and discreet reactionary action is contemplated? I say in this episode they did.

There was no urgency to bring events to a head. The offence was 4 days old already. Personal behaviour patterns clearly show that a person is at his lowest resistance level in the early mornings when awakening from sleep. The Police are well aware of this fact. All their raids for any reason are carried out at dawn because of this human "down" period. The forcible entry of the flat frightened and alarmed Chase. Who wouldn't be? He reacted to protect himself and his wife and child and armed himself with a bullworker. The Police thought it was a shotgun, and shot him dead. Isn't this a likely result when the Police are armed and rely on the use of a firearm in circumstances such as this? The offender was THOUGHT to be armed by a policeman who was pointing a firearm at him and so fired his weapon. What other options were open to the Police so that the events could have been avoided?

There was no immediate urgency to arrest Chase - the Police had waited 4 days. In the present situation no one person was at risk; Chase, his wife and child were sleeping in their flat. No one in the adjoining flats were aware and subjected to any danger from Chase or anyone else.

This was the situation that the Armed Offenders, leader knew and assessed. This is an experienced Police member, of a considerable number of years service. He and his unit are the most disciplined and well drilled section of the Police. Its members undergo long hours of specialised training on contrived and selected incidents. Tactics are implemented in the field to suit the ever changing unknown behaviour of the offenders.

The Chase chain of events was not unusual. Chase, as the offender, was asleep in his flat. The flat could be secured. Residents could be aroused and led away from any violence. Communication could then be set up with Chase's family and the negotiations to surrender be commenced. Did the Police think the family was likely to be under any form of personal harm if this option was enacted? If they did, then wasn't it likely that raiding the flat was likely to aggravate their safety? Wasn't it a likely option, that if Chase thought that his wife and baby were likely to be harmed by any violence he instigated, that a peaceful end could be negotiated? The armed Police forcibly entering a flat into a narrow entrance way was a battle arena that was conducive to both Police and occupants of the flat being injured if shooting eventuated.

The point that has to be made - is that time was on the side of the Police and all these factors should have been discussed and analysed by the Officer in Charge of the Armed Offenders Squad. It is a Police tactic to use peaceful containing methods. This is a New Zealand Police unit we are talking about - not an anti-terrorist unit dealing with a death-threatening event.

These comments are made solely through personal Police experience or knowledge as to how the Police approach such an incident, reports of the news media, and subsequent court reports. I know I make these comments some years after the event - but there is nothing I have written which in the normal course of events, a rational experienced and clear thinking and organised Senior Police Officer would not have considered. Maybe I'll write a book about what happened and what may have happened!


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