Wednesday, July 6

Racial Justice Key to Effective Policing, Says NPCC Chief Amid Legitimacy Crisis | Police

The leader of Britain’s police chiefs has said that the legitimacy of forces in black communities is so low that it is hurting the effectiveness of law enforcement as he vowed to shift generations of strained trust.

In his first interview on race since the Black Lives Matter protests last year, Martin Hewitt said it was not a matter of “political correctness” or “awakening,” but an operational necessity to push for racial justice in the police force. The fight against everyday crime was deteriorating, he said, and the issue of race was the continuing fault line of the British police.

Hewitt said he wanted to change “generations of history” between the police and black communities, strained by arrest and search and decades of reports that found that blacks were being treated differently from whites.

Hewitt, president of the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), says the two key issues are: increasing the nearly 20% deficit in trust and confidence that black communities have in the police compared to the average; and increase the number of black recruits in the ranks, which is less than their proportion of the population.

In one of the crudest confessions about race by a high-ranking police officer, Hewitt told The Guardian: “The reason it’s important is because all of that leads to the legitimacy of us, as a service.

“Our policing style is based on legitimacy and our legitimacy is based on the trust of all communities. It is a fact that the levels of trust and security within the black community are 20% or so lower than those of the white communities, and that [has] impacted on the confidence and security of us to do what we do as a service.

“So that means trust and security in terms of when we are out and doing surveillance on the streets and in the communities, as we need all of our communities to have that trust and security. “It is only with that trust, security and legitimacy that people come forward, people report crimes, people become witnesses, people work with us and … that trust leads young black men and women to say that I am ready to go and become a police officer. “

The BLM protests that began last June involved more than 250,000 people taking to the streets in the UK alone, motivated by the murder by police in the US of the unarmed black man George Floyd.

The British police were plunged into a racial crisis by arrest, searches and the use of force. It follows decades of erupting racial crises followed by promises of change from police chiefs.

Nine months after the initial protests, Hewitt said the bosses had not yet finalized a new action plan, but denied that this was because the problems that had haunted the police for generations were being eliminated. He said final plans would await the approval of the independent president of a new scrutiny board, who would be recruited from the external police.

Black Lives Matter protesters in London last June
Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrate in London last June. Photograph: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Police would no longer mark their own task on racial justice, Hewitt said, and the new chair would have the “soft power” to demand responses from police and admonish them if progress was too slow or blocked. “It shows the fact that we are listening and we want to listen. It shows the fact that we are opening ourselves up to independent external scrutiny, and it also gives legitimacy to the work we are doing, because it will be a multi-year job. “

The president will be recruited through an open contest. When asked if he could be a former white police officer, Hewitt said: “It would seem highly unlikely, if not totally impossible,” adding that “that would be fatal” to the credibility of the police chiefs’ efforts.

Taking into account the time it took, Hewitt said: “There is nothing here where you can click your fingers and do one thing and everything is going to change suddenly, we are talking about having an impact on literally generations of history between the police and the communities. “

Over the decades, police chiefs had made repeated promises, and Hewitt said a great job had been done. “It is a complicated and challenging subject. It is a subject that [as police chiefs] I have a responsibility to address. “

He added: “The only conclusion that can be reached is that we have to do some things differently.”

Some who have seen drafts say that the action plans contain little difference from the above. It will focus on three general themes: internal culture and inclusion, use of powers and community participation.

An NPCC report found disproportionality in “the number of complaints and subsequent assessment of severity and actions taken on complaints and allegations of conduct among black and white, Asian and ethnic minority officers.”

Official figures show that black people are nine times more likely to be arrested and searched, according to the latest official data. There were six stops and searches for every 1,000 white people, compared to 54 for every 1,000 black people.

“I don’t think it’s a last chance, necessarily, but some people have used that phrase,” Hewitt said, adding that it was a challenge for the police leadership: “There is an option for any organization, essentially, to Wait for things turn off and move on. And we decided not to.

“This is not about political correctness. It is not about “waking up” or whatever someone else wants to call it. This is legitimate police surveillance. Legitimate police have to be legitimate for all communities, and that includes the black community. “

The modern landmark for the police and the race was Sir William Macpherson’s 1999 report on the failures that let the racist murderers of Stephen Lawrence escape justice for years. It found the police to be “institutionally racist,” a finding that Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick now says doesn’t apply, while the National Black Police Association (NBPA) says it does.

Hewitt said it was a definition from 22 years ago. “The point of that question about whether or not you are really saying: do you accept that there are problems in the police in relation to racial equality? And I am absolutely saying that there are problems with the police in relation to racial equality, as there are with any other part of society and any other organization.

“We absolutely recognize that where we are now is not where we want to be, either internally for our own staff or externally because of the relationship we have with black communities and the service we provide to black communities.”

Andy George, the president of the NBPA, who believes that the police are still ruined by institutional racism, said: “The NBPA is eager to advance the NPCC’s racial action plan, but is concerned about the lack of progress after almost nine months. “Racism is a problem that has continued to cloud the police force despite years of trying to address the systemic reasons for disproportionate outcomes for Black, Asian and ethnic minority officers, staff, and communities.

“The above plans have been delivered by well-intentioned people who, sadly, lacked the lived experience to understand the issues. NPCC must use the cultural assets it has at its disposal to do so and the NBPA is here to support. “

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