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Community leaders share their reflections on policing

News   •   May 25, 2021 17:10 BST

The murder of George Floyd was an appalling incident that shocked the world. Over the past year the Met has been working with community engagement groups led by Black, Asian and Minority ethic committees to assist with improving the relationship, trust and confidence between the police and the communities that they serve.

We have asked community leaders to share their reflections on policing in London and the importance of a positive relationship between police and all Londoners.

Doreen Sinclair-McCollin, CEO and Co-founder of Elevated Minds:

“Elevated Minds strongly believe that real, sustainable change can happen between the Black community and the police. However, we must adopt the 'village' concept to make this happen.

“The Black Lives Matter agenda has forced various institutions to look at their practices and attitudes toward the Black community. It has created opportunities for the Met Police to collaborate with grassroots companies led by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Management Committees.

“Elevated Minds CIC and our Youth Advisory Board, Elevate2Success (E2S), are working closely with the Met - helping on training new recruits, focusing on Stop and Search and cultural awareness training - titled Creating and Sustaining Change.

“In the last year, our work with the Met has highlighted the commitment of both groups to improve the confidence of the Black community in the police. The Met has involved the voice of the Black community in finding solutions to improve relationships. For the E2S group, meeting Commander Alison Heydari was one of the high points of our work with the organisation. Her sheer presence alone has helped them to become even more determined to be the change they want to see.

“We look forward to our continued work with the Met and the community.”

Pastor Lorraine Jones:

“The death of George Floyd had an impact on us all around the world and in England, we were all struck with deep emotion as we watched the media footage of a sad and brutal death. The police in London stepped up with no hesitation and with great passion to show the Black community that they are genuinely policing by consent to keep the Black community safe.

“A large number of community meetings were organised by the police bringing in local residents, young people, community leaders and organisations to meet with them online to discuss issues, listen to concerns and create community policing plans which would help us immediately to build more trust with them.

“The police also supported the community by policing various marches through the lockdown to make sure everyone was safe. I have witnessed some verbal abuse towards the police when I was in my local community (Brixton) and the police held their peace because they understood the hurt, pain and rage which the Black community was going through. We have seen more passion, human care and trauma-informed policing since the George Floyd tragedy.

“There has been more of a listening ear and proactive support plan to better relations with the Black community. The police have really stepped up with listening to the concerns of the Black community and have been more proactive using black officers within the Met to take a lead in helping them to understand and deal with some of the issues and pain at hand. This is a good thing and must continue to grow.

“Thank you Met.”

Jamaine Facey, UTCAI (United to Change and Inspire):

“Since UTCAI was formed last summer, in the aftermath of the horrific killing of George Floyd, the Metropolitan Police have sought to engage with us and bring about positive change where relations with our community is concerned.

“Part of the drive we want to foster, is transparency, accountability and cooperation within police constabularies when interacting with communities.

“We are heartened to see a different and positive approach to their recruitment drive, to encourage more people from black and ethnic minority groups to join and help shape a new Met from the inside out.

“We are encouraged by the Met’s desire to want to communicate with our community, to look again at their Stop and Search processes, and overall at their drive to become more transparent.

“We hope and trust that this will become an ongoing effort and that our discussions will help foster a more peaceful and mutually beneficial relationship for both the Met and the communities they serve.”

Paul Charlton:

“The murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minnesota on 25 May 2020 was an appalling incident that shocked the world. It lead to protests in many countries concerning the excessive use of force and issues of racism within police services.

“In Britain, not since the death of Stephen Lawrence, has the subject of racism taken such prominence. Debates on radio phone-in talk shows and television programmes became commonplace with much comment from all sections of the community, academics, politicians and celebrities. It made front page news and occupied many internal pages of newspapers and other publications. Many institutions, businesses and workplaces revised and reviewed their policies, practices and procedures in regards to diversity and fairness at work.

“The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) was not unaffected by the events. They had to sensitively police protest marches in central London during a global pandemic (COVID-19) during the period of a national 'lockdown', when the message from the government was to 'stay home, protect the NHS, save lives'.

“The events had a profound impact on the Black community, including black police officers and black police staff. The death of George Floyd initiated many conversations which we had not had with such intensity for many years. The MPS has since sought to reach out further to the community to assist with improving the relationship regarding trust and confidence between the police and the community. One such development was the setting up of the External Reference Group, which has formed part of the Deputy Commissioner's Delivery Group (a key requirement emanating from the Mayor of London's Action Plan).”

Annette Mencke, Beyond Colour:

“One year on, the anniversary of George Floyd’s death is an opportunity to look back. Anniversaries provide an opportunity to remember, reflect and recommit.

“I am not really one for taking to the streets, but prefer to look what I can do on my own doorstep today that can make a difference tomorrow. Changing a culture can take generations but taking small actions, where I live, feels more empowering than reading headlines and listening to the news.

“As the chair for our local ward panel, a platform that brings together local residents and our Safer Neighbourhood Policing team (SNT), I wanted to make sure our Black community has a voice, can be part of the change and play an active role in our community. And I am proud that our panel reflects the community we represent because a diverse panel is the only way to understand crime in your local area from every perspective. It is the only way to find solutions and the only way to build trust between the public and the police. If you want to have a say, get in touch with your local SNT and join your local ward panel. If your panel needs a fresh lease of life then reach out to your faith community, your LGBT groups, young people and business community and get people involved.

“The UK is the only country in Europe where we police by consent; where the police are the public and the public are the police, known as the Peelian principles, named after former Prime Minister Robert Peel and founding father of the Metropolitan Police nearly 200 years ago.

“We are lucky and privileged in this country to be able to get involved, work with the police, have a say, provide feedback and make improvements. And when Chief Superintendent Roy Smith asked me to join the External Reference Group, set up following the launch of the Mayor’s Action Plan, I didn’t hesitate. Everyone wants change but change is a collective responsibility and the only way to write a new narrative is to step inside the arena and stop being a spectator.

“It is no small task and feels more like turning the Titanic but being part of the Reference Group has also given me a chance to play my part and create small changes and learn about all the new initiatives. From improving London’s ward panels, providing input in the recruitment and promotion process, reviewing how the Met uses force, setting up a Youth Reference Group so the young have their say, or connecting them to other forces in Europe to learn how they have created a police that is close to its citizens, respected and trusted. Being part of the group has been a real eye-opener to see how the Met works and I have been taken aback by their genuine desire to change. I think everyone recognises that nobody wants to look back in ten years’ time and find that nothing has changed.

“We all know that colour has created structural differences that are reflected statistically but I also know that there is real commitment to bring about change. Not everything can be attributed to the police. There are still many areas in society that affects the Black community whether it is education or health. It is heart breaking to see that statistically young black boys are more likely to be excluded from school which sometimes then unfortunately leads to a trajectory into gang affiliation.

“We cannot blame the police for everything. Creating a safer London for everyone requires all of us to step up. We need to go all the way and look beyond colour, reflect on our everyday language and actions and create an environment where our differences are of equal value and provide equal opportunity. We need to go all the way and look beyond the uniform and acknowledge the person who gives it their all 24/7 and 365 days a year and turns up when nobody else will. It is time to start a conversation, time to talk, connect and build trust. Time to meet your local Bobby.”