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StopWatch signs open letter in response to the Met's 'turnaround plan'

StopWatch, in coalition with Runnymede Trust and 24 other racial justice organisations, calls out Met commissioner Mark Rowley's 'A New Met for London' plan.

28th July 2023‍

RE: Response to 'A New Met for London' Plan

Dear Sir Rowley, 

We are writing as a collection of racial justice organisations to express our thoughts and concerns regarding the reforms set out in the ‘New Met for London’ Plan. 

We welcome efforts to acknowledge and address recent and historic failures of the Met, including how harmfully Black and minority ethnic Londoners are policed, and are therefore glad to see the concerns raised in the Casey Review being reviewed. However, as we have stated previously, it is regrettable that you have persisted in offering an apology to our communities without accepting Casey’s core finding that the Metropolitan Police Service is institutionally racist. This was a missed opportunity for the Met to signal that it intends to do things differently, and acknowledge where the wrongdoing is rooted. 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. 

Therefore, while we of course support and share the aim of reducing community crime and keeping Londoners safe, we are mindful that reducing crime and building stronger relations with communities is not supported by expanding the presence of neighbourhood PCSOs. Increasing the presence and powers of any institution without addressing its fundamental issues is clearly not the solution, and will only have adverse effects. We welcome the recognition that preventing crime and anti-social behaviour requires a holistic approach, including addressing the material circumstances which are often the root causes of crime; eradicating poverty, access to good education, housing and health care and the equality of opportunity for all. 

We recognise that responsibility for the latter does not fall with the Met, but it is your responsibility to ensure we all feel safe in our interactions with our police services before any expansion of police presence. In addition, targeting low-level crime risks pushing more people from certain communities into the criminal justice system, exacerbating existing racial inequalities without addressing any of the root causes or offering solutions. Police are five times more likely to stop and search and use force against Black people, and six times more likely to strip search Black children. At the sharpest end, Black people are seven times more likely to die following police restraint. In that context, simply adding more PCSOs does not address the real issues.

The stated second aim of a culture change to “embed the values of policing by consent” must be achieved before any further police expansion, given that trust is a precursor to ‘policing by consent’. 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. Culture changes must be thorough, with the acknowledgement and acceptance of institutional racism (and misogyny and homophobia) which Casey found to be rife among the Service. This must include the safeguarding of minority ethnic Officers who have reported facing serious instances of racism while at work. It would be irresponsible to recruit more Black and minority ethnic Officers if they are entering a workplace which exposes them to racialised harm, with no clear steps as to how institutional racism will be rooted out. Increasing our communities’ interactions with a harmful and unchanged institution will only exacerbate existing issues.

Meanwhile, efforts to “fix foundations” by expanding policing equipment, tools and tactics, while the racialised systems and structures underpinning the Met still remain firmly intact, will only further entrench disproportionalities in how Black and minority ethnic Londoners are policed. This is already evidenced in England and Wales police forces’ historical and current use of databases, predictive policing algorithms and surveillance technologies, such as facial recognition technology and the discriminatory Gangs Violence Matrix, an operation found to be unlawful following a legal challenge from Liberty and Unjust UK. There has been no recent equalities impact assessment on the use of these technologies, and therefore no strategies to understand and address their deployment against communities who are already over-policed. Before such powers are expanded, the latter must be conducted to understand how and where these disproportionalities lie. 

Despite publishing an 80-page plan for reform, it still remains unclear how the Met intends to tackle the issues which remain entrenched. Promises to "do more" for over-policed communities without providing a clear plan on how the Met will achieve its stated aspirations of becoming "a police service that does not discriminate" do not inspire confidence in the feasibility or sincerity of the proposed changes. In particular, we are interested in where the recordings from the “10,000 interactions” that form the evidence base of this Plan are recorded, given that this sets the tone for how and what the Met will be held accountable to. This goes beyond MOPAC and the new London Policing Board, communities deserve transparency as to how the local engagement activities laid out in this Plan will indeed be inclusive of all, and lead to a Service we could consent to being policed by. 

Finally, we are deeply concerned by your call for further £336m of funding for the Met, a public service which has received hundreds of recommendations on how to address the excessive and disproportionate policing of Black and minority ethnic Londoners, including the 110 set out in the 2017 Angiolini Review of deaths in police custody, yet has failed to implement many of them for decades. Meanwhile, funding cuts to youth services in England have reached £1.1bn, which is a real time fall of 74% since 2010/11, while the annual spend per head on 5 - 17-year-olds dropped from £158 in 2010/11 to just £37 in 2020/21. In London between 2011/12 and 2020, £34m was cut from council youth services.

We strongly advocate for investment into essential social infrastructure such as community-based youth and mental health support services, affordable housing and education initiatives. These are evidence-based approaches that address the root causes of crime, and would ease the burden on the Met to respond to social issues that police are not appropriate or equipped to deal with.

We urge you to deliver a more comprehensive plan of action with clearly codified channels of engagement and accountability that addresses the issue of institutional racism head-on and reflects a genuine commitment to positive change within the Metropolitan Police Service. We would gladly meet with you to consult on what an appropriate plan and inclusive engagement activities could include.

Yours sincerely, 

Shabna Begum and Laurence Jay, Interim co-CEOs, Runnymede Trust

Jeremy Crook, Chief Executive, Action for Race Equality

Saqib Deshmukh, Interim CEO, Alliance for Youth Justice

Lee Jasper, Chair, Alliance for Police Accountability

Wanda Wyporska, CEO, Black Equity Organisation

Louise King, Director, Children's Rights Alliance for England

Abimbola Johnson, Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers

Deborah Coles, Executive Director, Inquest

Jasbinder Nijjar

Aika Stephenson, Legal Director, Just for Kids Law

Kelechi Okafor

Kevin Blowe, Campaigns Coordinator, Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol)

Remi Joseph-Salisbury, Northern Police Monitoring Project

Laura Connelly, Northern Police Monitoring Project

Sayce Holmes-Lewis, CEO, Mentivity

Michael Morgan

Jabeer Butt, CEO, Race Equality Foundation

Lord Simon Woolley

Holly Bird, Research and Policy Officer, Stopwatch

Stafford Scott, Director, Tottenham Rights

Yvonne Field OBE, CEO, Ubele Initiative

Katrina Ffrench, Director, Unjust

Alliance for Racial Justice:

Black South West Network

Council of Somali Organisations

DWC Consulting

Friends, Families and Travellers

Housing Diversity Network

Jewish Council For Racial Equality

Lancashire BME Network

Traveller Movement

This letter originally appeared on the Runnymede Trust's website.

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