Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The darkest day in the history of the Metropolitan Police Service; Time for Hogan to get the heave ho.

Crisis? What crisis? This was the famous phrase invented by a Sun journalist, that helped bring down the 1979 Labour Prime Minister, Jim Callaghan.

Despite the endless series of public scandals currently surrounding the Metropolitan Police Service, listening to the infrequent comments made by the Mayor of London and the 
Commissioner of Met Police Bernard Hogan Howe, one can be forgiven for invoking this classic phrase.

Plebgate and Andrew Mitchell MP, spying on the Lawrence’s, the use of undercover policing and the state sanctioned rape of environmental activists, the adoption of the names of dead children by undercover officers, the links between the Murdoch media empire and corrupt police officers as exposed by the Levenson inquiry, the cases of Daniel Morgan, Sean Rigg, Smiley Culture and Mark Duggan and the latest revelations about potential police corruption in the Lawrence case , together constitute the most profound crisis ever to face the Met police in its post war history.

Bumbling Boris just doesn't get black communities. 
Both the London Mayor and the Met Commissioner have failed the test of public leadership, accountability and transparency.  In the context of national and global press interest in the Lawrence case and the powerful intervention of the Home Secretary, we've heard virtually nothing from either man, that has provided a scintilla of leadership or any degree of vision or real accountability. This is remarkable given the scale and potential of the current crisis and the serious implications for London.

Home Secretary demands policing reform.The Cabinet resists
The fact that a Tory Home Secretary has announced her intention to reform stop and search powers and hold a public inquiry into police corruption in the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation, should be cause of celebration, an opportunity to restore public confidence. The fact rumour has it the Home Secretary is despised by the Mayor and Commissioner as a result of announcing the latest public inquiry , not celebrated.  

Real political tensions within the Tory Party on police reform and stop and search, are all evident to see.The Home Secretary believes that Boris is incompetent and has failed to deal with racism in the Met. Boris believes the Home Secretary is seeking to undermine his leadership challenge  Such public disagreement on these issues pours scorn on the claim that the Tory Party is united on its commitment to the principles of justice, fairness and equality

 Hogan Howe probably the worst Commissioner we've had since Sir Paul Condon
Boris Johnson is entirely focused on his leadership bid and getting back into the House of Commons. He has nothing substantive to say on these issues, nor does he demonstrate any understanding of what kind of leadership multicultural city like London needs now.

His preferred solution, to the combustible state of police and community relations in London, is to abolish locally based, Community Police Consultative Groups established by Lord Scarman and instead buy the police water cannons.

These two incredibly important decisions provides a damming insight into extent to which the Mayor himself has assumed a Colonel Blimp like persona disconnected from the real world.

These groups are the very bedrock of true police accountability in London. Boris’s decision to abolish groups such as these that can literally, prevent disorder is not only an extraordinarily stupid and reckless thing to do, it could potentially cost lives.

I am personally aware of the many countless times positive policing interventions Consultative groups have made when critical incidents occur. Staffed by dedicated volunteers they work tirelessly on behalf of their communities. The work they've done and continue to do, has prevented London burning in the past. Their abolition is an act of municipal vandalism. 

When tensions rise in local communities these groups play role in allowing people to legitimately vent their frustrations and maintain the Queens peace.

The Mayors decision to abolish these critical frontline groups is an act of such gross political short sightedness and crass stupidity that it simply beggars belief. Its a tragic error and one that I believe will ultimately cost the country dear.

Boris is not a fan of public inquiries as evidenced to his reference to the original Stephen Lawrence Inquiry as a hysterical anti police with hunt.

The Commissioner has been a little more visible, however he has real communication issues. Nobody know who he is, his lacklustre deadening prose, his reliance under pressure to revert to rote repetition, his lack of vision and credibility leave him floundering in London’s stormy political waters.

That would be bad enough itself but when one takes into account a senior management at the Met, whose distinguishing feature seems to be their stunning inability to come up with a credible plan to begin the process of restoring public confidence, means he must be a ‘dead man walking.’ 

My information is that his own senior management team are losing faith in the Commissioner and some are were now plotting his demise.

The charge is simple and straight forward. 

At the highest level the Commissioner has been found wanting, incapable or unable to navigate the Met through these turbulent times and is facing the most profound series of challenge's in its entire history. The scale of this crisis is such that Met cannot survive in its present form and must now be broken up and reformed.

The Metropolitan Police Service is facing the unprecedented crisis of gargantuan proportions and yet the men elected to lead the Met, the men ultimately responsible for everything the police do in London, the Mayor and his erstwhile Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Stepehen Greenhalgh, remains staggering aloof and largely silent on an issue that poses an acute threat to the peace and security of London.

As public scandal after public scandal, is revealed so the wealthy and jovial arrogance of Mayor Boris de Piffel Johnson, disconnected from London’s multicultural, reality begins to jar with the urgent requirement to repair the public confidence in the police. During the August 20121 riots when London was burning and deadly and riotous disorder broke out in the capital, Boris was busily refusing to return to London whilst preferring relaxation on his summer holiday on the Algarve.

The multi-cultural incompetence of the Mayor and the Commissioner cost the nation dear. In the immediate wake of Mark being slain, both the Duggan family and the people of Tottenham, desperately waited for answers. Neither man, Boris or Bernard was at his post.

Their other key failing is reflected in the fact that neither have any senior black people in their teams that could have advise them. Had both had the necessary black expertise and the right personal around them, they would have been alive to the potentiality for disorder, that was predicted in January 2011 by myself and others, after the death in custody of Smiley Culture. 

Had they had such expertise they could have deployed a pre-emptive community reassurance engagement strategy that would have lessened the likely hood and could have potentially prevented disorder.

Any fool could have told them as much. It’s a form of white colonial arrogance that assumes white people can run a multicultural city like London. Such ignorance does not come cheap as London found out to its cost.

Ken vigorously challenged Met Police racism.
London governance needs the right balance of necessary credibility, insight and experience. We’ve already paid a heavy price for their ignorance of the multicultural reality of London. 

The tragic reality is the way things are at the moment, a recurrence of the disturbances we saw in August 2011,are almost inevitable.

The Metropolitan Police Service is an institution I know extremely well, I have challenged police racism and bad policing practices for over 30 years, man and boy. I consider myself to be one of the few black men who have had the opportunity to externally challenge police racism for two decades and lead the change, I wanted to see as Policing Director for London for eight years, as a part of the progressive and enlightened administration of Ken Livingstone. 

My breath of experience, in this regard, is almost unparalleled in the UK. 

On the 7th October 1998 I appeared and gave evidence as the youngish Director of the 1990 Trust to the Sir William McPherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The public inquiry sat in south London Elephant & Castle, at Hannibal House and I was one of only of handful of black organisations giving evidence to the inquiry. 

Reading my evidence to the today it struck me how critical was black political interventions into the national conversation about justice for Stephen, the shape and thinking behind the McPherson inquiry report. It’s a sign of the times that so many of the black organisations listed as providing evidence back then, are no longer in existence today.

One of my most memorable contributions to the inquiry sought to summarise the black experience of policing to a largely cynical public and press. I remember the line I gave today as clear as if it happened just yesterday. I told McPherson that…

‘As a black community we are over policed as law abiding citizens and under policed as victims of crime’

The debate about how much has really changed since 1998 is interesting. There is a view that things have moved on and improved since those dark days. I would agree over the course of a period of 15 years, it would be churlish to deny that we have seen some improvements and changes in police behaviour and attitudes. The problem is however, that such progress that has been made, was and to a large extent remains sporadic and tenuous, driven by individual commitment rather than systemic cultural and professional change.  

Treating incidents of institutional racism as simply isolated acts, committed by rogue individuals, leads to the adoption of peicemeal cosmetic, superficial changes, rather than fundemental, radical reform. 

Progress becomes linked to charismatic individuals rather than any fundamental changes to organisational culture ethics or values. 

The powerful and all conquering ‘policing canteen sub culture’ eats New Scotland Yard's diversity and equality policies for breakfast.

In 21st Century Britain police racism has become much more nuanced, hidden and sophisticated, whilst at the same time becoming increasingly efficient in camouflaging itself seamlessly into the general environment. That’s why if I were giving evidence today I would now say;

 ‘Police racism has become much more nuanced and as a consequence much more insidious and destructive in terms of discriminatory outcomes for black people. As a result, we are being criminalised en masse by an institutionally racist police service and criminal justice system whose operational focus, is the deliberate targeting of black youth for unjust, unfair discriminatory and disproportionate treatment’

Whilst Boris sits in his testicle on the Thames reciting Latin verses from the Iliad and quaffing Mo√ęt & Chandon with property developers , his banker chums and his hapless Deputy Mayor for Policing, the capital is being rocked to its foundations by a series of public and professional scandals that have simply confirmed what many have suspected for some time. 

The Metropolitan Police Service has become increasingly riddled with a toxic culture of corruption, racism and sexism.

Of course there are many Officers who uphold the highest standards of professionalism and on a day to day basis. These officers support help and protect Londoners from both crime and criminals. They, as they say, ‘do a good job in difficult circumstances’. Whilst this is true, there is another profoundly disturbing reality.

The current Gov and previous Labour Governments have both, over the course of the last decade progressively abandoned any real commitment to promoting the benefits of  multiculturalism, become ideologically opposed to anti-racist policies, and the equality agenda.   Labour strengthened Equality law and then reduced people access to affordable legal expert advice capable of prosecuting anti discriminatory legislation. 
Trevor Phillps: The man who closed down the CRE.

Having made the catastrophic error to abolish the Commission for Racial Equality, this was quickly followed, in 2010 by the Tory wrecking ball strategy that destroyed all the McPherson monitoring and partnership forums and eviscerated, marginalised or ignored all aspect of race equality policy in Government.

The message from Governmen  to the  public sector specifically and wider society in general, is clear and resolute, ‘we’re not interested in race equality’. 

And so it is, that outside the sanitising glare of political, professional and public scrutiny, institutional racism in policing has returned with bloody vengeance. Like a dangerous virus that was initially suppressed by strong antibiotics, the patient having declared themselves fit without finishing the proscribed full course of treatment, inevitably suffers a relapse and is now the grip of a now toxic and resurgent infection.   

Racial profiling is rampant. 
Meanwhile the wretched calamity that passes for a publically accountable Police Service in London has witnessed the drip, drip, drip of scandal after scandal, poising of the well of public confidence.

The very nature of modern policing in neoliberal, capitalist multicultural democratic 21st century societies is changing before our very eyes.

The much cherished policing philosophies established by the founder of policing in England Sir John Peel of ‘policing by consent’ and that the ‘police the public and the public are the police’ seem, today like nothing more that romantic echoes of an idealistic past.

Britain's international reputation abroad is often referenced by lofty quotations about the absolute sanctity of the rule of law, a nation where our liberties and freedom as British citizens, are guaranteed by our democratic tradition.

This is a profoundly a compelling historical narrative that begins with the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 and ends with the adoption of Human Rights Act 2001.

The ideal, the fervent belief, was that on this emerald isle all citizens, including the King are treated equally before the law. These idea’s transformed over time into the idea that English law was in some way transcendental, that ours was gold standard democracy built on the ancient antiquity of our Parliament.

For many black British citizens such sentiments remain Disneyesque. Their reality is one of constant police pressure, racism and corruption. 

The Met need urgent and radical reform and we need a new Mayor and Commissioner.