Judah Adunbi has spent the greater part of a decade trying to improve relations between police in southwestern England and the members of his Afro-Caribbean community.
Still, all the advocacy and the meetings with police were ineffective in getting the 63-year-old dreadlocked man out of the predicament he was in earlier this month — staring at the business end of a police officer's Taser.
Adunbi had been out walking his dog in Bristol, about 120 miles west of London, when officers mistook him for a robbery suspect, according to the Guardian. They didn't know him — or that he was a founding member of the police department's Independent Advisory Group, an organization formed to improve police-community relations.
The officers asked his name but, agitated, Adunbi refused to tell them.
“I've done no wrong,” he said, the entire incident captured by a neighbor who started filming. “Leave me alone.”
He does make an effort to show he's not a threat. When an officer says he's holding his keys in a threatening manner, he puts his hands over his head, then clasps his arms behind his back. Still, the confrontation intensifies.
“I've asked you to remain calm,” an officer asks.
“Your sergeant is going to Taser me for whatever reason,” Adunbi says, his incredulity mixing in with a thick Caribbean accent.
His entreaties are not enough. When Adunbi tries to go into his home, the officers stop him at the gate. A struggle ensues, and an officer pulls out a black and yellow stun gun.
She pulls the trigger and yells “Taser” three times.
A prong strikes Adunbi just below the chin, sending 50,000 volts through his body. He falls to the ground, now paralyzed, his head striking the pavement.
“All right, you're being Tasered. Okay, you're under arrest.”
When he was taken to the hospital, the wire from the Taser still dangled from his face.
In Britain, handguns and assault rifles are effectively banned for civilians. Only a few, well-trained officers are entrusted with guns — and they hardly ever use them, according to The Washington Post's Griff Witte.
Between 2004 and 2013, officers in Britain and Wales discharged their firearms fewer than 10 times a year, Witte reported. (In the United States, 963 people were shot and killed by police in 2016, according to The Washington Post's Fatal Force database. Of those, 233 were black.)
Still, British authorities found that officers are more likely to use force against blacks and other minorities. According to the Guardian, black people are three times as likely as white people to be shocked with a stun gun by British police.
In Britain, incidents involving the use of force can be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which handles the complaints and compiles data. The IPCC found that uses of force against blacks and other minorities accounted for 29 percent of its referrals in the past five years, although that group accounts for just 14 percent of the British population.
One of the ways authorities sought to eradicate those disparities was by forming Independent Advisory Groups.
In Bristol, Adunbi had been a founding member.
The group's mission is to advise officers “on policing issues that may cause concern to local people and communities,” according to the Association of Chief Police officers. In particular, police familiarize members of the IAG with protocols for when officers use force.
“To know that one of the [founding] members of the Independent Advisory Group, which was created some years ago to improve the relationship between the Afro-Caribbean community and the constabulary, and to be treated like this, it’s difficult,” Adunbi told the Guardian.
He was charged with assaulting a constable in the execution of duty and using threatening or abusing behavior, according to the Telegraph. The charges have been dropped.
In a statement, Chief Police Superintendent Jon Reilly said the incident has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Doing so is not a requirement, Reilly said, but “we want to be as open and transparent as possible.”
Reilly said he had met with Adunbi and the two “had a constructive conversation.”
“We’re aware of concerns within the local community, and we take these concerns very seriously. We would like to answer their questions, but we need to be mindful that an investigation is ongoing, which makes that difficult.
“However, I would like to reassure them that the incident was captured on the officers’ Body Worn Video cameras.”
Adunbi told the Guardian that he had gone through a similar ordeal with police in 2007, another case of mistaken identity. Police confirmed to the newspaper that Adunbi had been “awarded compensation” after an incident with officers.
A Facebook group has already sprouted called “Prosecute Judah Adunbi Attackers.”