"It felt like they were making a joke out of my nephew’s death."

The word’s of Zainab Hassan, aunt of Mohamud Hassan, who died hours after being released without charge by South Wales Police (SWP).

Returning home battered, bruised and bleeding after his detention, Mohamud told his family he’d been assaulted whilst in police custody. He died later that day.

One year on and no answers for a grieving family and community.

READ MORE: Protest in a pandemic - Black Lives Matter refuse to be silenced

No surprise either. According to Black Lives Matter UK, more than 1,740 people have died in police custody or following police contact in England and Wales since 1990.

Recent figures show black people twice as likely to die as white people. A month after Mohamud’s death, Mouayed Bashir died in Newport after allegedly aggressive police intervention.

READ MORE: 

Who then polices the police? Mostly the police themselves, wrote Iain Gould, a police misconduct lawyer and blogger, explaining in February 2021 why "fewer than one in 10 police officers found to have a case to answer for gross misconduct end up being dismissed from the service".

Mohamud’s death is one of the few cases being investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which Gould dismisses as a paper tiger "without the authority – or indeed, in many cases, the desire – to truly hold rogue officers to account".

And that’s because the IOPC is "far too cosy and intermeshed in its relationship with the police" and where "almost 30 per cent of all IOPC staff come from a police background and an even greater proportion of senior investigators (40 per cent) were former officers".

One big family, the police like to boast, which explains why the six SWP officers, one served with a gross misconduct notice and five with misconduct notices, out of 40 officers investigated, continue to go about their business and why Mohamud's family has yet to receive any of the bodycam footage of his arrest or CCTV footage from within Cardiff Bay police station during his detention.

READ MORE: Police served misconduct notices over Mohamud Hassan's death

So if the police cannot be trusted to police themselves and if the IOPC proves equally incapable and unwilling to do so, then is there someone else who has the authority and responsibility to hold to account police officers who abuse their power?

READ MORE: Wales police misconduct: The scale revealed

Step forward Alun Michael, long-serving South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, who tells us proudly that his aim is "to serve the people of south Wales by holding the police accountable". Except that in the case of Mohamud, Michael has done little more than utter platitudes and hide behind the IOPC.

READ MORE: Why your cross in the Police and Crime Commissioner box matters

And so we’re back where we started, no further forward, left only with the certainty that more innocent people, many of them people of colour, will die at the hands of the police.

Deborah Coles, director of human rights charity Inquest says their work "has revealed a systemic pattern of deaths (in police custody) raising concerns about structural racism, state violence, neglect and impunity".

Is this the Wales you want to live in?

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.