The hounding of David Oluwale
June 6, 2007 12:26 PM   Subscribe

David Oluwale arrived in Britain in 1949, one of many African immigrants. By the close of 1969, he was dead. Two years later, two police officers were charged with his murder, although they got away almost scot-free despite a massive amount of evidence against them. Although it caused a national scandal at the time, more because of police malpractice than racism, Oluwale's sad story has been forgotten since (apart from a play, written by Jeremy Sandford, a few years later). However, it deserves to be remembered not just because of a tragic and unnecessary death, but because it was the first recorded death of a British black person as a result of police racism. A new book, Nationality: Wog, The Hounding of David Oluwale is helping bring Oluwale's plight back into public consciousness. Via the BBC's Thinking Allowed.
posted by humblepigeon (8 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No blacks.
No Irish.
No dogs.
posted by veedubya at 2:03 PM on June 6, 2007

No blacks.
No Irish.
No dogs.

I think it was Dave Allen who pointed out that you're buggered if you're a black Irish wolfhound.
posted by humblepigeon at 2:26 PM on June 6, 2007

Scot-free ... Great pun!! You know, because they were British, not Scots. Haha ... Wait, that was intentional, right?
posted by TreeHugger at 2:57 PM on June 6, 2007

They weren't called the filth for nothing.
Reading some of the police blogs, you see a lot of moaning about "sensitivity training." Whatever the utility of that, hopefully some currently serving in the shiny new police service will acquaint themselves with stories like this and understand why they are being asked to examine their attitudes.
Mr Oluwale's death coincided with renewed conflict in the north of Ireland; in an on-off shooting and bombing war the death toll there was only a little of three times the figure given for deaths of black people in police custody.
posted by Abiezer at 4:37 PM on June 6, 2007

They weren't called the filth for nothing.

What I didn't mention in the original posting was that several pro-Oluwale football chants came out following the inquest, and were sung at Leeds United games. You can hear the words in the Thinking Allowed link, but they were forged out of dislike of the police rather than a concern for black people in Britain, I think. I guess if you're that way inclined you have to choose your enemies, and your enemy's enemy is your friend.

I read the police blogs you mention. Many are enlightening and I find most of them quietly reassuring because they make me realise that these are humans doing a hard job. I stop seeing the police as an organisation, but as a collection of ordinary individuals. In our days of increasing police powers, when the perception is that the police are an instrument of a virtual totalitarian state, that's no bad thing.

But some are scary. One guy in particular seems to be very un-PC and rather too patriotic for my liking.
posted by humblepigeon at 12:46 AM on June 7, 2007

very un-PC

That's un-politically correct, rather than un-police constable. Although maybe both are true...
posted by humblepigeon at 12:48 AM on June 7, 2007

Don't get me wrong humblepigeon; I applaud the way the police have moved to put their house in order. I also accept that they spend a lot of time performing many unpleasant but necessary duties, from dealing with drunken town centre rucks to picking up after road accidents.
But if you take the powers, you have to take the responsibilities. We've come a long way since it was open season on blacks and strikers, we're not quite there yet, but maybe we are past the worst of the SPG, West Midlands Serious Crime Squad and the rest. Good riddance to some very bad old days.
posted by Abiezer at 5:38 AM on June 7, 2007

I was young when the SPG was about. All I knew about SPG was that it was the name of Vivian's hamster.

When I read up on them, I couldn't believe it. How was that allowed to happen?

I've been researching the modern police force for something I'm working on. There have been so many reforms, especially during the 90s, that any trace of that kind of thing was forcibly beaten out of them. True, the police service has been left in tatters, but it served them right.

As with the rest of Britain the police have become more cosmopolitan and professional—the modern British disease. 'The job' is just a job, nowadays. This has removed the personal touch we were used to, and which is actually good, but it's perhaps a price worth paying.
posted by humblepigeon at 6:09 AM on June 7, 2007

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