Not just disablism but racism too. The Met’s assault upon a West London family

The story begins in the early hours of 29 June 2006 with a report of a stolen car being dumped in Snowy Fielder Waye, Isleworth, a quiet and exclusive residential street. One of the street’s residents spots a car being dumped and a shadowy figure fleeing the scene. The time being about 2am. The resident however thought no more of it and went to bed. When she got up she decided to call the Met Police about the incident. The time of that call was approximately 8.20am.

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Shortly after the call police from Twickenham arrived at Snowy Fielder Waye. The first person the cops were to see was Ryan Harris-Tench. He was standing outside a neighbours’ house where he had gone for a cigarette. A black man hanging around and up to no good was obviously how the officers saw it. His brother Louis soon appeared on the scene to chat with Ryan. No doubt they were wondering what the Met was up to. Police now saw the pair together and immediately suspected them of having stolen the car and dumped it.

Why would anyone steal a car and dump it in their own street is beyond comprehension. The Met didnt see the irony of their errors and set about unleashing total chaos upon this quiet street in Isleworth, South West London.

Officers proceeded to arrest both Ryan and Louis, and in the process assaulted them. They sustained injuries in the process. Their mother, Rosaline, who is disabled, looked out of her windows and saw what was happening. She was shocked at what was happening and despite great difficulty with mobility she went to intervene. Her reason for intervening was the fear that “something serious was going to happen to one of my boys.”

Officers assaulted the mother. They also pushed her to the floor and again further injuries were sustained in what was a totally unjustified arrest. Rosaline pleaded with officers not to manhandle her roughly because she was disabled but they took no absolutely notice. It seems quite clear the family were also being racially assaulted.

Officers radioed for more vehicles and support and eventually Snowy Fielder Waye was flooded with patrol cars and vans – nine being counted at one point. Dozens of officers were in attendance from the news reports citing testimonies from the various neighbours who saw the events unfold, it is clear the police action was totally disproportionate.

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Twickenham Police station

All three members of the family were forced to spend a day in the cells at Twickenham police station, charged with both public disorder and police assault. The Harris-Tench family stressed they had not been aggressive towards any officers and there had been absolutely no reason to suspect them.

Mrs Harris, who is a member of Hounslow’s Racial Equality Council, said: “I actually felt like we were either part of a training exercise or it was an episode of The Bill. I honestly believe if Ryan had been white, this would not have happened in the first place. I just cannot believe the disproportionate use of force.”

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Mrs Rosaline Harris – was a member of Hounslow’s Race & Equalities Council

The family lodged an official complaint alleging that officers acted in an “absolutely appalling” and racist way and they had been falsely arrested. They said they had never had any dealings with the police before.

The police’s Complaints Investigation Bureau (CIB) began an investigation into the case three months later and all charges against the Harris-Tench family were dropped. An apology was made to the Tench family for the sufferance they had endured.

The Metropolitan Police also took the opportunity to tell the media all their officers had thorough training in order to “appropriately and sensitively” handle disabled persons when arresting them. 

An interesting claim as events (as well as a scrutiny of records on training opportunities for officers) have shown this claim is unfounded. Just a couple of years later (2008) Met officers in West London were once again castigated for gross mishandling of disabled people. They even tried to claim back the compensation legally paid out in this, the case of ‘ZH’ at Acton Swimming baths. 

On International Disabled Persons day 2010 a report in Police Oracle tells us Denise Milani, Head of the Met’s Diversity Directorate had announced training for officers to better treat disabled and deaf people! Surely the Met claimed in 2006 their officers already had training on this? Some progress indeed!

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