28 July 2023

Racial justice groups write to Met police chief with concerns on overhaul plan

28 July 2023

Racial justice organisations have written to the head of the UK’s largest police service expressing concerns about the recently announced multimillion-pound plan to overhaul the force.

The open letter to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley lamented the “continued refusal to acknowledge the institutional nature of racism within the Met” and described it as a “missed opportunity” to show an intention to do things differently in future.

Plans to overhaul the force, a £366 million two-year scheme dubbed A New Met for London, were launched last week as the troubled force works to rebuild its reputation after a series of scandals and a savage review by Baroness Louise Casey that found it was racist, misogynist and homophobic.

The plans include an increased emphasis on neighbourhood policing in a bid to rebuild public trust, moving 240 officers from central to local teams, and using terrorist-style tactics to catch the 100 worst predators targeting women in London.

But a letter, co-ordinated by the Runnymede Trust and signed by groups and individuals including Inquest, Stopwatch, the Black Equity Organisation and Lord Simon Woolley, called for “a more comprehensive plan”.

It stated: “We urge you to deliver a more comprehensive plan of action with clearly codified channels of engagement and accountability that addresses the issue of institutional racism head on and reflects a genuine commitment to positive change within the Metropolitan Police Service.”

They said while they “welcome efforts to acknowledge and address recent and historic failures of the Met, including how harmfully black and minority ethnic Londoners are policed”, they find it “regrettable that you have persisted in offering an apology to our communities without accepting (Baroness) Casey’s core finding that the Metropolitan Police Service is institutionally racist”.

Following the Casey report, which was published in March, Sir Mark said he would not use the term “institutional” and told reporters that he needed to use language “that’s unambiguous and is apolitical”.

But the groups stated in their letter that this was “a missed opportunity for the Met to signal that it intends to do things differently, and acknowledge where the wrongdoing is rooted”.

They added: “The continued refusal to acknowledge the institutional nature of racism within the Met highlights the disconnect with the levels of hurt, anger and intergenerational trauma felt by our communities, and black and minority ethnic Met Officers, because of the way they have been exposed to the service.”

Dr Shabna Begum, interim co-chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, said: “Despite publishing an 80-page plan for reform, these proposals fail to inspire confidence in the feasibility of what feels like yet another series of promises, nor do they set out how the Met can be held accountable in any defined way.

“We all deserve to feel safe in our communities, and in our interactions with state institutions which are supposedly there to keep us safe, but this plan for “A New Met for London” is wholly disappointing, very little feels new, even less feels like a concrete plan, and all our communities in London deserve better.

“We recognise the need for greater funding – but disagree with where that funding should go. We know that in terms of meeting crime reduction, it is significant and sustained investment into community-based solutions that tackle the root causes of crime.”

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