June 27, 2020
The Metropolitan Police’s top officer has said she’s learned a lot more about racism as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement – but maintains that her force is not racist, despite concerns to the contrary.
Cressida Dick: Black Lives Matter Has Provided Powerful Lessons But Met Isnt Racist
Describing footage of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of US police as appalling, Cressida Dick said the past few weeks have been “powerful” in which the realities of inequalities Black people face have been brought to the fore.
The commissioner endorsed the phrase Black Lives Matter, describing it as “important”, and said she has personally written to Black colleagues expressing solidarity and offering opportunities to communicate about how to improve their experience within the force.
“Over the last few weeks, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, I’ve become much better informed about the Black Lives Matter movement and multiple events –but in particular the appalling video of George Floyd’s death,” she told HuffPost UK.
“I’ve thought very hard about how my colleagues and Friends are affected by that. The phrase Black Lives Matter is a very important one. Black lives do matter and should matter to us all, obviously, and in this city of all cities and my police – which I believe is the best in the world and is here to bring justice, prevent crime and keep people safe. Our values are about treating people fairly and having a really inclusive workforce.”
That said, the Met chief maintains that her force is not institutionally racist, 20 years after the Macpherson Report labelled it as such.
Numerous high profile cases of police encounters with Black men have alarmed members of the public.
On Monday, it emerged that a 24-year-old Black man from north London had  been left paralysed from the chest down after being Tasered by police as he jumped over a wall.
In a similar case, Rapper Wretch 32 recently told of how his 62-year-old father, Millard Scott, was Tasered in his north London home during a police raid.
Police allegedly told Scott the raid was drug-related, but the man said officers did not search his house for drugs.Last week, campaigners criticised police after a video showed officers detaining a Black driver on suspicion of using Vaseline from his car to smuggle drugs inside his bottom.
Earlier this month, officers were accused of racial profiling after a video emerged of two Black men in north London receiving harsher treatment during a routine stop and search than their white companion.
In May, a Black school worker was detained while waiting in his car for a post office to open.
Days later, National Police Chiefs’ Council data revealed Black people have been disproportionately fined under Coronavirus laws during lockdown.
Despite these instances, the commissioner feels the two-decades-old label is not “useful or appropriate”.
“There have been some high profile complaints made and they are quite properly investigated, many of them by the completely Independent Office of Police Conduct,” she said.
“I also know there have some videos that have been circulating; inevitably they don’t show the whole story and, again, if we have concerns about those or anyone else, we refer them to IOPC and we review them ourselves, always. We’re very scrupulous about trying to deal with complaints and concerns.
“In relation to the phrase ‘institutionally racist’ what I have consistently said is I do think that’s for others to judge; I don’t find it a useful or appropriate phrase for my service at the moment but if others judge us differently that’s obviously their right. What I do recognise is that people have concerns about the nature of interactions that we sometimes have with members of our Black communities.”The Met chief said she strives to spend “every minute of every day” working towards improving trust between Black communities and the police – but highlights that reckoning with an unequal society creates obstacles where this is concerned.
“We do police in an unequal society. We also do use force; we have a unique ability to use force only within the law, only when it is proportionate and necessary to do so.
“We do things to people that they wouldn’t want done to them even when we’re doing absolutely the right thing. So this does, obviously, bring us into a potential conflict with individuals. I’m very proud of the service I lead in terms of its use of force, its professionalism, its scrutiny and accountability, the body-worn video cameras.”
In comparison with the rest of the world, the commissioner thinks the Met is doing alright, so to speak.
“I travel overseas and watch policing elsewhere. I’m out on the streets all the time with my officers and I’ve been a police officer for a very long time. There are 40,000 of us and we’re not perfect, things go wrong – but I think the professionalism and skill that my people have in dealing with people from a whole range of communities, and particularly young people, is so much better than it ever was.” She acknowledged that there is room for improvement within a force that is four times more likely to use force against Black people compared with the white population. But she made reference to more scenarios where individuals might misunderstand their rights or the reasons for police to use force, than to ones where officers might be the problem.
“I want us to be even better and bridge the gaps in understanding, if there are gaps: if people don’t understand why we have to use force in a particular way, if people don’t know their rights, if my officers in a particular situation have misread things for whatever reason.”
Still, the Met head maintains that improvements have been made, pointing to reports that reflect as much.
In an internal survey, Dick said particular focus was placed upon experiences of Black Women in the Met and big improvements were noted in this regard.
In March, senior Black police officer Robyn Williams was sacked without notice by the Metropolitan Police after being convicted of possessing a child abuse video on her phone which was forwarded to her on WhatsApp but she hadn’t opened.
Campaigners slammed this decision as being unfair and racially motivated.
“I’ve been engaged in many focus groups listening to people’s experiences and also trying to work with colleagues even more than I ever have to make the police service an even better place for Black colleagues and friends to work of all ages,” the commissioner said.
“I am trying to provide a better service for Londoners including our Black communities. It’s been a very, very powerful few weeks for so many people and I’m included in that.”Related... Sadiq Khan Defends Met Police's 'Massive Progress' On Racism, But Admits There's More To Do Wake Up To How You're Treating Black Men, Top Custody Deaths Lawyer Urges Police 16 Key Events In The History Of Anti-Black Racism In The UK
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