100 signatures reached
To: Mayor of London , Commissioner of Met Police Bernard Hogan-Howe and Lambeth Council
Defend police-community accountability in London
To accept the constructive recommendations put forward by LCPCG, in response to the Mayors deeply flawed proposals to reshape police-community engagement in London.
Why is this important?
We the undersigned believe that in a multicultural city like London the important principle of ‘policing by consent’ remains a cornerstone of modern British policing.
Under radical new arrangements for the Metropolitan Police Service community engagement strategy as proposed by the Mayor of London and agreed by Lambeth Council, Lambeth Police Consultative Group (CPCG), alongside all other local London CPCGs, has seen the Mayor’s Office cut funding completely with many such important groups being closed.
We believe this to be a serious and critical error of judgement
The Mayor seeks to replace CPCGs with his proposed local Safer Neighbourhood Boards (SNBs) that, as currently conceived, will be far less representative than Lambeth CPCG in terms of diversity, gender, faith and youth.
These proposals are currently subject to public consultation, amendment and agreement at local level by Borough Councils and Borough Commanders.
It is our view that the proposed terms of reference and administrative arrangements for Lambeth SNB will be far less accessible to the general public, much less accountable in terms of its membership and , as a result, will enjoy very little credibility among alienated communities, many of which lack trust and confidence in Lambeth Police Service and other statutory agencies.
Public trust in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is central to and a prerequisite for ensuring the effective policing of crime and for improving levels of community safety. A modern, multicultural borough like Lambeth suffering high levels of deprivation, youth unemployment and crime requires a credible, inclusive, accessible public forum open to all.
Lambeth CPCG has a long track record of innovation in challenging police malpractice and thus improving operational policing and MPS policy.
For thirty years Lambeth CPCG has routinely held monthly public meetings attended by MPS Borough Commanders alongside their senior management teams. Also in regular attendance Lambeth officers, Councillors and other important key local stakeholders and members of civil society.
Lambeth CPCG facilitates what can often be quite difficult and fraught discussions directly between statutory agencies and local communities on a range of policing related issues, for example the nature of ethical professional policing, in addition to discussions on priorities for crime prevention and reduction and community safety initiatives.
One of the strengths of the CPCG is that any member of the public can walk in off the street, giving them unprecedented access to senior MPS officers and local officials tasked with reducing crime and improving public confidence.
We believe the principles of independence, open access, inclusivity and accountability all inform the extent to which such forums are viewed as credible. We consider them to be fundamental to maintaining a legitimate and effective forum for ongoing police-community engagement. The central importance of this issue was recognised and highlighted by Lord Scarman in his seminal report into the causes of the 1981 Brixton disturbances; community engagement, trust and confidence were all cited as critically important factors in the maintenance of credible and effective police-community relations.
This remains just as true today as it was in 1981. The Coalition Government report ‘Riot Communities and Victims Panel’ into the causes of the August 2011 disturbances recommended that ‘police forces proactively engage with communities about the impact on the perceptions of their integrity.’
The central importance of ensuring public access to timely meetings, agendas and minutes, the ability of the public and the press to raise issues of concern, to engage and ask questions of the SNB in public are considered optional in the current Draft Terms of Reference for Lambeth SNB, recently published for consultation.
We believe Lambeth’s current proposals are deeply flawed and will further erode police accountability. In such high crime, tough to police areas, like Lambeth, any erosion of police accountability is likely to lead to increased community tensions.
Given the challenging local history of police community relations, added to the current backdrop of legitimate public concerns about the disproportionate use of stop and search powers, deaths in police custody, allegations that MPS undercover officers spied on the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, the Mark Kennedy scandal and, of course, Plebgate means that in boroughs such as Lambeth trust and confidence in the MPS remains dangerously low.
Whatever the new arrangements, we believe it is vital that the important principles cited above, derived at great expense, often through the tragic, fraught and sometimes extraordinarily difficult policing experience of local communities, are both respected and maintained.
How it will be delivered
We will deliver to MOPAC at the next meeting of GLA Police and Crime Committee at City Hall.