Receive our Behind the Headlines email and we’ll post a free copy of Byline Times
An open letter, released today and coordinated by leading independent race equality think tank, the Runnymede Trust, has been signed by multiple organisations arguing that the response to the Casey Review laid out on the “New Met for London” plan does not go far enough in addressing the systemic nature of prejudice within the force.
The letter has been co-signed by representatives from 27 organisations, including Action for Race Equality, the Black Equity Organisation (BNO), Inquest, Stopwatch, the Alliance for Police Accountability, and Lord Simon Woolley. It highlights how, while the force has issued an apology to Black and minority ethnic communities in London in the plan, it has missed a crucial opportunity to acknowledge the institutional nature of racism within the Met.
The letter states that ‘the continued refusal to acknowledge the institutional nature of racism within the Met highlights the disconnect with the levels of hurt, anger and intergenerational trauma felt by our communities, and Black and minority ethnic Met officers, because of the way they have been exposed to the Service’.
Further, it explains that the force has lost the consent of the public, and that plans for expanding the scale, practices and tools the Met currently employs will only further entrench disproportionalities in how Black and minority citizens are policed. The group is “mindful that reducing crime and building stronger relations with communities is not supported by expanding the presence of neighbourhood PCSOs”, and that it must now fall to the Met to “ensure we all feel safe in our interactions with our police services before any expansion of police presence”.
Black people are five times more likely to be the victims of stop search, Home Office data reveals, and almost half (45%) of all stop and searches carried out are by the Met police. Black people are also seven times more likely to die following police restraint, and police are six times more likely to strip search Black children.
The Casey Review found that ‘racism and racial bias are reinforced within Met systems’ and that ‘the Met under-protects and over-polices Black Londoners’. The Review also found that the Met “has yet to free itself of institutional racism” and that “public consent is broken”, with just 50% of the public expressing confidence in the force.
Public trust in the Met has fallen from 89% in 2016 to 66% in March 2022, with public confidence in them to do a good job locally dropping from 70 to just 45% over the same period. However, this figure drops further among Black and mixed ethnic groups, who on average score 10-20% lower on trust and 5-10% lower on confidence, and this being the case before some of the most recent scandals made headlines.
Just this week, the Independent Office for Police Misconduct (IOPC) has opened an investigation into the death of a Black man who died in police custody earlier in the month. Just prior, but still in July, it was reported that Errol Dixon, 71, who was punched in the face by a Met Police officer, had a previous IOPC ruling against him overturned at Judicial Review.
ENJOYING THIS ARTICLE? HELP US TO PRODUCE MORE
Receive the monthly Byline Times newspaper and help to support fearless, independent journalism that breaks stories, shapes the agenda and holds power to account.
We’re not funded by a billionaire oligarch or an offshore hedge-fund. We rely on our readers to fund our journalism. If you like what we do, please subscribe.
On 21 July, shocking images of a Black woman being wrongfully detained by Met Police officers in front of her young child began circulating on social media, after she was falsely accused of not paying her bus fare. The Met are now facing a probe following the incident.
Six Met officers are also currently under investigation for the treatment of a 90-year-old woman with dementia, who was handcuffed, put in a spit hood, and had a taser pointed at her. The incident was referred to the IOPC, and the officers in question have been accused of discriminating against the woman due to her race, gender, age, and disability.
Dr Shabna Begum, Interim co-CEO of the Runnymede Trust, said: “We are at an absolute crisis point with regards to how Black and minority ethnic communities are policed, and there is a failure to offer an appropriate, crisis-level response. Our communities face punitive and punishing policing that has for decades stripped away confidence and consent.”
“We all deserve to feel safe in our communities, and in our interactions with state institutions which are supposedly there to keep us safe, but this plan for ‘A New Met for London’ is wholly disappointing, very little feels new, even less feels like a concrete plan, and all our communities in London deserve better.”
The letter says that the stated aim of a culture change among the Met, to “embed the values of policing by consent”, must be acheived before any further police expansion, and that “it is increasingly clear that minority ethnic communities, queer communities and women do not consent to the violent, predatory and discriminatory policing that we are currently offered”. It also says that it would be irresponsible to recruit more Black and minority officers while they continue to be exposed to a workplace in which they are likely to experience racialised harm.
The Casey Review found that “Black, Asian and ethnic minority officers and staff are more likely to experience racism, discrimination and bullying at their hands”, and that “Black officers are 81% more likely to be in the misconduct system than their White counterparts.”
The New Met for London report states that “we’re undertaking the strongest doubling down on standards for half a century. We’ve launched new training schemes to make the Met more diverse. We’ve invested in new technology and begun the work to exploit data better to police more precisely”. However, the coalition raises concerns here, specifically with the use of racially bias technological solutions within the police.
The letter calls for an equalities impact assessment into the ongoing use of databases, predictive policing algorithms and surveillance technologies, such as the Gangs Violence Matrix and facial recognition technology, which have already been evidenced to enforce discriminatory policing. In November last year, the Met agreed to a “wholesale change” to the secretive Gangs Matrix, after it was found to be unlawful, breaching the right to a private and family life. The system also disproportionately featured Black citizens, who represented 80% of those named within it.
Finally, the letter expresses deep concern over a call for a further £336 million in funding for the Met, which has received “hundreds of recommendations on how to address the excessive and disproportionate policing of Black and minority ethnic Londoners… yet has failed to implement many of them for decades”. Instead, it advocates for investment in evidence-based approaches to crime prevention, such as community-based youth and mental health support, affordable housing, and education initiatives. It urges the Met police to deliver a more comprehensive plan of action going forward.
A spokesperson for the Met Police told Byline Times: “The Commissioner has been clear about the scale of change that is needed if we are to achieve our mission of more trust, less crime and high standards. We have tens of thousands of inspiring and hard-working officers, staff and volunteers who are committed to that change, supported by leaders who will ensure they are set up to deliver it.”
“One of the core pillars of our policing plan for London is ‘fixing our foundations’ which involves radically changing how we train officers to give them the skills and tools they need to cut crime and make a difference. We’ll organise and deploy them better, improve our leadership training and make sure they have more time to serve communities.
“The plan returns those communities back to the heart of policing and puts local officers back at the centre of our approach to tackling crime. The days of specialist teams being considered more important or worthy of greater prioritisation and resourcing are in the past.
“As part of that reprioritisation we will be encouraging officers with valuable skills and experience from across the Met to take up roles in frontline policing where they can share their expertise with new recruits and make a real impact on tackling crime in communities.”
Dr Begum said that “Despite publishing an 80-page plan for reform, these proposals fail to inspire confidence in the feasibility of what feels like yet another series of promises, nor do they set out how the Met can be held accountable in any defined way.”