Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Cuts, Crime, Policing and Black Communities; the end of the post Scarman/McPherson consensus on racism.

The government cuts to policing and local authority budgets will have a dramatic impact on levels of serious youth violence; level of community safety; trust and confidence, and reduce the ability of both communities and police to tackle gangs, guns and knife crime.
Against the backdrop of the critical failure of this Condem government to deliver on its pre election promises to black communities and effectively recognise and prioritise race equality the combination of both will set police and black community relationships back 30 years.
In relation to crime in black communities, the reality of entrenched generational levels of unemployment and racism suffered by black communities over the past 40 years, high levels of poverty and teenage birth rates have resulted in an explosion of serious youth violence.
Areas where poor communities live are targeted by drug importers as lucrative open drug markets. They have flooded inner city areas with both drugs and guns. Young people, largely uneducated and unemployed and often without proper parental support, have been seduced into crime for the want of opportunity and employment. As a result we have endured extreme youth violence and too many families and communities have been devastated by the increase in youth violence.
Scarman & McPherson 30 years on…
The last 30 years have seen dramatic improvements in police and community relations. This revolution in police and community relations came about following the number of black tragic deaths in police custody, police brutality, and failure to tackle racist attacks and prosecute those guilty of racist murders.
The settlement arrived at between black communities and Government after the publication of the McPherson Report represented a social pact. The unspoken deal was that public institutions and Government would deal with their institutional racism and black communities would now consider entering into police community partnerships and end the 30 year boycott of black recruitment into the police service.
Government targets to reduce the number of racist stop and searches, joint working on policing issues in black communities through the establishment of joint working groups focussing on racial attacks, youth violence or black recruitment into the police service all began to develop as a consequence of the post Scarman/McPherson peace pact.
This consensus is now all but dead as all of the areas of race equality policy progress have been politically undermined, targets ditched whilst racism in operational policing terms has increased.
Community accountability.
The Scarman report in the 1980’s recommended the establishment of local police consultative groups to inform the work of local policing authorities and operational policing strategies. These have provided a critical forum for discussion and consultation between local communities and the police. They are an important safety valve for community tensions where critical incidents such as a death in custody or allegations of police racism and brutality can be discussed. Both Policing Authorities and Police consultative groups are to be abolished with the cuts to the Home Office and local authority budgets. This is a fundamental and critical error.
The post McPherson pact between black communities and the police has been based on an acceptance by the police of the existence and the need to deal with institutional racism and an explicit commitment from councils and the police to create tripartite partnerships that focus on black police recruitment, crime prevention and youth diversion projects.
That post Scarman/McPherson consensus is now breaking down before our very eyes. Police consultative groups that provide an important space for communities to express their concerns about local policing are under threat with their funding under review. This represents stupidity beyond belief.
Partnerships in tackling crime.
One of the key benefits of the post Scarman/McPherson settlement was the unique series of partnerships with police and local black communities to tackle gun and knife crime.
Constructive engagement and support from police Government and local authorities produced a transformation of relations with black communities working in wide ranging police community and council partnerships engendering increased levels of trust and confidence.
Over the last 10 years we have seen the establishment of many local youth diversion, prevention and mentoring projects designed to encourage confidence of black communities and fostering positive crime prevention work in partnership with the police.
The work of Operation Trident the Metropolitan Police Service partnership with London’s black communities designed to tackle gun crime is a great example.
Such partnerships recognised the importance of tackling the social conditions that produce great swathes of youth and adult unemployment in addition to deep socioeconomic alienation, which leaves people vulnerable to seduction by criminal gangs with access to a vast amount of money and huge quantities of drugs.
During that time we saw real improvements in the relationships and partnerships between police and black communities.
The benefits of these partnerships have been joint working to tackle serious violence among young people and a huge increase in black recruitment to the police service.
Today these fledging partnerships are all but dead and buried. Government, local government and police services have now abandoned any real commitment to tackling racism in the police service and the maintaining of sustainable civic partnerships.
The very basis of the fight against youth violence and criminality, created by entrenched poverty and racism is being undermined and destroyed.
Black communities, having been previously encouraged and supported to work in tripartite partnership with police and statutory authorities, in an effort to tackle serious youth violence and racist attacks have now been effectively disempowered and abandoned in the fight against these crimes.
With an expected decrease in policing numbers, likely reductions in the recruitment of black police officers, large scale increases in black youth unemployment and poverty,   the virtual decimation of local youth and community projects, alongside the closure of many police and racial attacks monitoring projects means that the critical infrastructure that supported and gave life to post Scarman/McPherson settlement is all but gone.
Back to the future: The policing cycle of reinvention.
Further, with an anticipated increase in crime as unemployment rises, fewer police officers and youth projects and support services aimed at working with alienated and disenfranchised young people, we will see a return to the aggressive and ‘ noble cause’ policing of old. This re run of history is known as the “policing cycle of reinvention”.

That cycle results in a self fulfilling prophecy of higher crime rates; leading to increased press demands for more to be done. Increased political pressure will be placed on the police to make more arrests, fewer officers dealing with more crime leads to the adoption of more aggressive policing styles and calls for relaxation of civil liberties legislation to “free officers from red tape and human rights laws”. Black communities become completely alienated from and hostile to the police in these conditions.
This specific catastrophe (and it is that serious), reflects the wider breakdown in what was a shared and widely held liberal consensus about the need to tackle institutional racism, the positive contribution of multiculturalism and the rights of black workers and communities to self organise.
The consequences of this state of affairs are extremely profound and herald the return to the time where relationships with black communities and the police were deeply antagonistic. This is a defining moment in the relationship between the Government, the police and black communities.
The incidence of domestic violence among black communities is on the increase as a consequence of the social and economic environment created in deprived neighbourhoods. At times of economic stress both women and children tend to suffer from the dire circumstances forced upon families.
Crime – Government abandons the black community.
In effect the Government has decided to abandon black communities in the fight against knife, gun and drug crime. The cuts to the policing and community safety budgets will leave the poorest communities to face increased crime levels unsupported.
Despite the long history of mistrust between black communities and the police, the post Scarman/McPherson period produced a pact between black communities and the police. This Scarman/ McPherson consensus saw the development of a broad range of confident partnerships between local black communities, the police and local authorities.
Those communities will now be left to deal with the men of violence on their own. No doubt none of the issues raised here will be recognised by those in central and local Government. Scotland Yard may yet retain senior officers who recognise the very real dangers of the Governments current approach; others will be completely oblivious and/ or dangerously complacent. 
They should be in no doubt that this brutal political and policing betrayal of black communities will ultimately cost many lives and will leave a lasting legacy of bitterness and hostility.