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Boris a 'monocultural mayor' as people lose trust in police

CRITICISM: Jasper, left, blasts Johnson for failing to build harmony between the community and police

A RECENT poll published by BBC London has highlighted the devastating lack of trust in the Metropolitan Police Service particularly but not exclusively among black Londoners.

The poll was conducted in the aftermath of the allegations from ex-Met undercover officer Paul Francis, who alleged police had a covert Special Demonstrations Unit who wanted to smear the family of Stephen Lawrence and their supporters at the time of the teenager’s murder.

The poll suggested a quarter of all those surveyed believe the Met is still institutionally racist. This rises to and incredible 38 per cent for black and minority ethnic people. A huge 25 per cent also believed there was widespread police corruption. Nevertheless, 85 per cent of those polled said they trusted the Met overall.

These figures confirm that the awful reality that we are witnessing the single worst period in police and black relations in the last 30 years. I have repeatedly put that charge to both Met commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe and Mayor of London Boris Johnson over the last three years.

Both have routinely dismissed my claim as ludicrous and politically motivated. These figures confirm my point. Both men argue the Met is no longer an “institutionally racist” organisation – a statement so far removed from the truth as to constitute a lie.

The dramatic and unprecedented finding of the public inquiry last Friday into the Met’s killing of Azelle Rodney that concluded the Met had “no legal justification” for his shooting will seriously aggravate these already severely strained relations. If the police officer concerned is not prosecuted, and there is every chance they won’t, then we will enter Rodney King type territory.


POLICE PROTEST: Plaques send a clear message to the law (PA)

In looking at these figures Londoners should be very concerned. It is precisely in this type of febrile atmosphere that makes civil disorder more likely. In August 2011, London and other parts of the UK burned and riots erupted after the shooting by police of Tottenham man Mark Duggan.

With relations so shot to pieces, it really only takes one minor incident on the streets combined with good weather and London could be burning again only this time, largely because of cuts to the GLA budget ordered by Boris, there are lot less police officers and firefighters to deal with any sustained disorder.

What this poll also tells us is that London is a multicultural city where race equality has been eviscerated from the Mayor’s list of political priorities. Johnson believes he can simply charm his way to a safer city without seriously engaging with black communities.

This is a fundamental error.

Good community police relations take time to build and mature. They require constant care and attention and the adoption of a strategic approach that builds and deepens community partnerships in the fight against crime.

This must amount to more than simple rhetoric, a couple of jokes and few Latin references. It requires Johnson acknowledging these pressing realities and starting the long, slow process of rebuilding trust and confidence with a political focus that matches the scale of the problem. As these figures demonstrate, the problem is now of staggering proportions.

From 2000-2008 while I was director of policing for London, levels of trust among London’s black communities increased year-on-year. That was a result of a determined policy of community reassurance and engagement alongside a real priority to tackle institutional racism within the Met. For the first time in the Met’s history, the majority of police officer applications came from black communities.


ON THE MARCH: Jasper, centre, shows solidarity with the family and supporters of Smiley Culture in 2011 - the reggae singer died during a police search of his home (PA)

We increased the number of black officers by 100 per cent in that period. We also ensured that the Met’s Senior Command Team looked more like London and that the maintenance of community police relations was a number one priority.

Five years on, Boris has reversed those gains through a combination of ignorance and arrogance. Today the Met is experiencing a net loss of black police officers whilst the Mayor’s office suffers from what the black community call “Guinness syndrome”.

Boris allowed stop and search to get out of control, failed to spot growing tensions arising as a result of the increase in the number of black men dying in suspicious circumstances whilst in police custody. He failed to deliver his much vaunted but now discredited black boys mentoring scheme, failed to maintain black recruitment, and promotion within the Met or his office.

He dismantled the jewel in the Met’s community police relations crown, Operation Trident, which has now lost every last shred of its credibility as a result of his insistence that it be turned into a “gang unit”. Boris abolished the London Hate Crimes Forum and then saw both racial and religious attacks in London increase as result.

Against the backdrop of recent events in Woolwich, we have seen increasing rates of Islamophobic attacks on Muslims, particularly women. Mosques and other religious buildings have become targets and the EDL is seeking to ferment religious and racial conflict across London.

He has effectively abolished the borough based Police Community Consultative Groups brought in under Lord Scarman post the 1986 disturbances. These were designed to help maintain and promote understanding, partnership and trust and confidence. Boroughs like Lambeth, for example, are entirely reliant, for maintenance of good order on the local PCCG, whose 30-year track record in acting as a pressure valve for local policing concerns has been essential. Foolish boy.


CONFRONTATION: Riot police approach an elderly man in Peckham during the London riots in 2011 (PA)

Part of the civic culture of a multicultural city relies on ensuring that the diversity and cultural dynamism of London is highlighted and promoted. The Mayor’s Office is critical to setting that tone however this Mayor has been distinctly monocultural. Boris cancelled Black History month and spent the money on America Day, cancelled the anti-racist Rise Festival and Africa Day. Cultural events such as these promote understanding and community cohesion.

Under Boris, black youth unemployment is at highest level in a generation and adult rates are rising fast as a result of public sector redundancies and voluntary sector project closures as a result of local authority cuts with consequent increases in rates of child poverty in the capital

The brutal reality is when one looks at these social and economic indicators London is quite clearly a less tolerant city, less equal city under Boris Johnson than it was under Ken Livingstone.

My guess is that most white people in London have no idea of the reality of the nature of the black or Muslim lived experience in London or recognise situation. The political disjuncture and chasm between the Tory mayor, the Met commissioner and London black and Muslim communities represents a critical fracture in London political landscape.

Like animals that can anticipate an earthquake before the first human feels a single tremor, I give London fair warning of the ructions to come.


DINNER TOAST: Boris Johnson busy at a black-tie event in January (PA)

All of these types of issues are slow burners, initially ignited by political ignorance or prejudice built up slowly, and once formed they tend to take years to reverse.

Race equality in London is not some politically correct ideological project of the “loony left” but a solidly pragmatic, hard-nosed political reality, an essential political requirement in a hyper diverse city such as London.

The Mayor of London’s failure to grasp this reality, his failure to ensure his team has the credibility and the skills to effectively represent all Londoners and his rude opposition to tackling racism and ensuring real diversity in London senior appointments has been a disaster the consequences of which will plague the city for a decade or more.

These figures indicate that a new approach to race equality in London is urgently needed however Boris and the Met commissioner are bereft of people who have the necessary experience and credibility to begin the painstaking process of rebuilding trust and credibility between London’s black communities and the Met police.

In the meantime, I would hope for the best and prepare for the worst – it’s going to be one hell of bumpy ride.

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