Promises to reform the gangs matrix have been made since 2016, with Sadiq Khan’s mayoral manifesto promising to build upon a ‘review of the anti-gang matrix system’. A review of the matrix was again highlighted in the MOPAC Police and Crime Plan 2017-2021. Seven years after these promises were first made, we look at where the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is currently in terms of Matrix reform.
Criticisms of the matrix focus mainly on its racialised structure and increased surveillance of young Black men. Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley acknowledged in a speech that Black men were disproportionately overrepresented on the matrix, many of whom are rated green (posing little or no risk). Even though the racial disparities are stark, the MPS still maintains that the matrix exists to play a protective role for victimised communities.
How many people have been added and removed from the matrix?
Since 2020, the MPS have released bi-annual figures on the number of those who are on the matrix. The most recent gangs matrix figures released in September 2022 can be found here. Using the data published since 2020, we can see that the total number of people listed on the matrix has reduced marginally by 25% over the past three years, with a significant dip in 2022.
At the end of 2022, following legal action taken against the MPS by Liberty, UNJUST UK and the musician Awate Suleiman, the MPS agreed to remove people from the matrix. 1,000+ people have been removed from the matrix, all of whom were classed on the matrix as posing little and no risk.
From 2020 until September 2022, a total of 679 people have been added to the matrix and 1,368 have been removed.
As of September 2022, Black people are still the overwhelming majority of those listed on the matrix. Black people make up 77.9% of those listed; the next highest proportion is White, at 11.6%.
The MPS is still lacking significantly in responding to requests from those who suspect they are on the matrix. During Mayor’s Question Time in December 2022, Caroline Russell of the City Hall Greens asked: 'Will you encourage the MPS and MOPAC to actively reach out to Londoners to tell them if they are or were ever on the Gangs Matrix?’. As of February 2023, MPS is still drafting a response to this question. There is a significant backlog meaning it can take over a year to receive a response; for musician Awate Suleiman, it took two years for MPS to respond to his inquiry as to whether he was listed on the matrix.
Two conclusions can be drawn from the research thus far. Overall, the number of people listed on the matrix has decreased, particularly those who were considered to be low risk. This is welcome news. However, currently we have little way to know whether their information is still held by third parties. There remains a risk that persons who have previously had their personal data logged on the matrix may still be subject to ongoing harm even if they are not currently listed on the matrix. Their personal data may be shared with third parties including the Home Office, local authorities, housing providers and schools. This could influence the ability of them and their families to obtain social housing, employment or otherwise to freely participate in society.
Secondly, the MPS needs to take more effective steps to address the backlog requests from people concerned about whether their personal data is on the matrix. It is startling that people are still waiting for a considerable amount of time before being informed whether their personal data is still being held on the matrix. We await the MPS from Mayor’s Question Time whether MPS will actively reach out to those who may have been matrixed.
By volunteering member Shaquille Scott-Davis
All blogposts are published with the permission of the author. The views expressed are solely the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of StopWatch UK.