Dr Marianne Wade joins community leaders to speak with Metropolitan Police officers about race and policing in the first episode of new video series, ‘Discussions Matter’. The aim is an attempt to “building bridges” via frank discussion and full recognition of some of the problems the Met must address.
Discussions Matter is a video project bringing together members of the public with officers and staff from different roles and backgrounds within the Met to explore important subjects in policing with panel discussions. Previously only used as an internal tool for the Met Police, the new panel discussion episodes facilitated by journalist and TV presenter Angellica Bell are being made available to the public for the first time.
The project, conceived by DI Rasheed Alawiye assisted by PC Lydia Wong, from Specialist Operations command, aims to break down barriers to foster understanding, allowing participants to engage in a safe space that encourages nuanced understanding, with episodes ranging from misogyny to neurodiversity.
British policing faces huge challenges to overcome its status as the gateway to disproportionate treatment of ethnic minorities by the criminal justice system. The Met, in particular, has been dogged by the finding of institutional racism for over 20 years. Unless officers fully understand the work, they have cut out for them to regain trust, and ethnic minority communities manage to reach across the divide to shape policing as a public good, also for us, things cannot improve.Dr Marianne Wade, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham
Dr Marianne Wade, Reader in Criminal Justice at the University of Birmingham, was invited to take part in the first, newly released episode focused on race and policing alongside Chief Superintendent Jeff Boothe, Detective Chief Inspector Neil Rawlinson and Detective Inspector Amakai Kefas. Joined by Doreen Sinclair-McCollin, Co-Founder and CEO of Elevated Minds and Joseph Charm, Partnerships Manager in corporate digital transformation and comedian.
The full and frank 40-minute discussion delves into: improving trust within communities; the use of police powers including Stop and Search; the Race Action Plan; engaging and involving communities in policing, representation, and recruitment; and the barriers to joining and shaping the Met.
Over the years, the Met has come under stern criticism regarding its culture and treatment of ethnic minority groups.
Dr Marianne Wade, Reader in Criminal Justice at University of Birmingham says “British policing faces huge challenges to overcome its status as the gateway to disproportionate treatment of ethnic minorities by the criminal justice system. The Met, in particular, has been dogged by the finding of institutional racism for over 20 years. Unless officers fully understand the work, they have cut out for them to regain trust, and ethnic minority communities manage to reach across the divide to shape policing as a public good, also for us, things cannot improve. The need to build bridges is urgent and these open, honest and important discussions are a good place to start.”
Dr Marianne Wade emphasises that if you are a member of an ethnic minority community group in this country you disproportionally are more likely to need the police as there is, for example, a higher chance of you being a victim of hate crime. Years of sociological study, however, demonstrates that calling the police may bring you into conflict with the police. A prime example of this is the highly problematic Gangs Matrix relating to which there has even been a failure to differentiate between victims and perpetrators in that database. Inclusion in the database has been shared by the Met across various public sector organisations such as schools and housing providers ensuring anyone named was associated with gang activity. Disproportionately victimised young, Black Londoners were thus treated as gang members. This is not a basis upon which trust can be built.
Dr Wade says: “These types of mistakes really resonate with ethnic minorities and can make people wary of reaching out for help when they really need it.
“Unfortunately, there have been many reports and reviews of the Met trying to make a positive change, but they have not had the desired impact. They have also often only come about once the Met have been taken to court to address the discriminatory problems they have caused. This causes and perpetuates a lack of trust between ethnic minority communities and the police. Today there are well-meaning police officers in the field but sadly there is still the weight of injustice that has come before which cannot be forgotten quickly.”
Doreen Sinclair-McCollin, Co-Founder and CEO of Elevated Minds, believes getting local communities involved and actively meeting officers could be key in helping to bridge the gap between ethnic minorities and the police. She says it is a valuable experience for young people to see the person behind the uniform and to give them a voice to offer first-hand experiences of how they have been treated in the past. Giving young people the space to express their point of view, and see what is going to change and how it will work for them in the future is important. This is just one of many small steps that can be taken within communities to help build a positive relationship. Dr Wade’s work also involves this kind of bridge-building through her participation in the West Midlands Police Counter-Terrorism Advisory Group as well as her support of students joining the WMP African Caribbean Reference Group.
Watch the full Discussions Matter: Building Bridges – Race and Policing episode. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this episode are the participants’ own, based on their personal experiences and knowledge.