Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence


36.  Memorandum submitted by the Metropolitan Black Police Association

1.  INTRODUCTION

  1.1 This paper is submitted by the Metropolitan Black Police Association (MBPA) and examines the relationship between young black people and the criminal justice system. It focuses on public perceptions of criminality among young black people and the reasons for their overrepresentation in the system. The Home Affairs Committee has announced that it will hold an inquiry into the relationship between young black people and the criminal justice system, it is hoped that the Association's contribution will influence the thinking of the inquiry and any outcomes. If required the Association would be willing to give an oral submission. The issues surrounding whether patterns of criminal behaviour amongst young black people differ in any significant way from patterns of crime amongst other young people and whether any specific policies are required is also explored.

2.  METROPOLITAN BLACK POLICE ASSOCIATION

  2.1 The Metropolitan Black Police Association was launched in 1994 and is a staff association and a registered charity (Charity No: 1068108). The MBPA is the largest and most proactive BPA in the UK. The MBPA is a affiliate of the National Black Police Association UK.

2.2  Metropolitan Black Police Association Aims

  2.2.1 The Metropolitan Black Police Association seeks to improve the working environment of black personnel within the Metropolitan Police Service and to improve police service delivery to black communities. Ultimately the Association wishes to eradicate racism from the police service and the broader criminal justice system.

  This aim will be achieved by:

    —  Providing a support network for black staff.

    —  Working towards improved relations between the police and the black community.

    —  Capacity building within the black community.

    —  Assisting recruitment and reducing staff wastage.

    —  Proactively assist in the development and enhancement of MPS policy and strategy.

    —  Providing a social network.

    —  Working more closely with other staff associations and unions.

    —  Working more closely with other criminal justice agencies both on a national and internal basis.

2.2.2  Definition of Black:

  Within the Association's constitution the term black does not relate to skin colour but is used to describe all people of African, African Caribbean or Asian origin. However for the purposes of this paper only, black shall refer to peoples of African and African Caribbean origins.

  2.2.3 The Metropolitan Black Police Association has been working with young people from the black community for over a decade precisely because of the overrepresentation issues within the criminal justice system. The Association believe that factors including, social exclusion, institutional racism, stereotyping, deprivation, under achievement and exclusion from school are all influencing factors when it comes to understanding the issues of overrepresentation. It is not simply that black youngsters have a higher propensity toward crime than any other ethnic group, it is that they find themselves suffering from multiple disadvantages and that the very organisation that are there to serve and protect them are still struggling to tackle the issues of institutional racism.

  2.2.4 The Metropolitan Black Police Association believes that the way in which black personnel are treated in the police service is also an indicator for service related issues to the black community.

  Other internal police indicators include:

    —  Underrepresentation of the black community within the police service.

    —  Underrepresentation of black personnel at senior levels of the police service.

    —  The overrepresentation of black police personnel within the disciplinary system reflects the overrepresentation of black youngsters in criminal justice system.

    —  Disproportionate stop and search of young black men (less than 12% lead to an arrest).

    —  Underrepresentation of black personnel in specialist departments and roles.

    —  Lack of trust and confidence between the police and black community.

    —  Ineffective community engagement strategies.

    —  Lack of cultural understanding of black communities.

3.  HISTORICAL CONTEXT

  3.1 Following the Second World War the UK suffered a labour shortage and Britain looked to the Commonwealth and the Caribbean to help. Tilbury Docks on 21 June 1948 saw the first arrival of Caribbean men and women on board SS Empire Windrush. This marked the start of a Caribbean contribution to address the labour shortage and in turn help to rebuild the British economy. The late 1950's saw significant migration to the UK with many settling in London, Birmingham and other metropolitan cities across England and Wales. However, on arrival many encountered racism. Many were turned away from churches, not give access to accommodation with many accounts of landlords saying no blacks, Irish or dogs. This racism led to physical confrontation on city streets and for many in the black community the police were seen to collude with racist gangs. This marked the start of declining mistrust between the police and black community. Throughout the seventies and eighties there were many accounts of police brutality and racism toward members of the black community. The infamous SUS laws were introduced in the 1960's, and police use of these powers contributed to the inner city riots of the early 1980's. The SUS law was the informal name for a stop-and-search laws that permitted a police officer to act on suspicion, or "sus', alone. These experiences have led to cross-generational mistrust of the police.

3.2  Section 95 data of the Criminal Justice Act 1991

  3.2.1 Section 95 data has consistently shown disproportionality at all stages of the criminal justice system.

  3.2.2 Black youngsters are less likely to be given bail than their white or Asian counter parts and are less likely to receive caution.

  3.2.3 Black youth are more likely to get custodial sentences than their white counterparts of the same offences.

  3.2.4 Black males make up 16% of prison population and black women make up 25%.

  3.2.5 From researched commissioned by the MBPA, many in the black community feel let down by the criminal justice system at every stage of the process.

4.  SOCIAL EXCLUSION

  4.1 Social exclusion is a key factor running throughout the backdrop of overrepresentation. Social exclusion has complex consequences, creating far reaching and long lasting challenges for individual families, communities and the economy. It can pass from generation to generation, children's life chances are strongly affected by their parents' circumstances, such as their income and the place they live.

  4.1.1 Social exclusion includes poverty and low income, and encompasses some of the wider causes and consequences of deprivation. The Government has defined social exclusion as:

    "a shorthand term for what can happen when people or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, unfair discrimination, poor housing, high crime, bad health and family breakdown".

5.  MEDIA

  5.1 The media today exhibits a culture that demonises young people, with headlines often describing "hoodie" wearing thugs roaming our streets and shopping centres'. This culture helps to spread fear in communities, and that somehow the word "young" is synonymous with thug. Add the ingredient of race and you have a recipe for stereotyping and discrimination on racial ground. Black youngsters are seen more often as perpetrators and very rarely the victims of crime. In fact young people are a one of the most vulnerable group in society. The victims of gun crime in the black community are in the main under 25 years of age.

6.  EDUCATION

  6.1 Just 27.3% of Black Caribbean boys gained 5 good (A-C grades) GCSEs in 2004, compared to 52% of all pupils, and 47% of all boys. Evidence suggests that a Level 2 qualification (five GCSEs or NVQ Level 2) is the minimum for entry into skilled employment in today's labour market.

  6.1.1 African Black Caribbean boys are overrepresented among permanently excluded and fixed-term excluded pupils.

  African Caribbean pupils are four to six times more likely to be excluded than white pupils although no more likely to truant than other pupils.

  6.1.2 Research from the Youth Justice Board suggests that young people who are excluded from school are more likely to offend.

  6.1.3 Figures from Connexions suggest that 11% of black children between 11 to 19 years old were not in education, employment or training (NEET). This is the highest percentage amongst any ethnic group apart from "mixed" heritage groups running at 12%.

6.2  Peer Pressure

  6.2.1 It is recognised that peer pressure has a significant influence on the offending of young people. For some young people in the black community there is a perception that they die before the age of twenty five, which in turn creates a culture of get rich quick without hard work or education. This in turn can lead to violent incidents witnessed in many inner city communities.

7.  VOYAGE: (VOICE OF THE YOUTH AND GENUINE EMPOWERMENT)

  7.1 The Metropolitan Black Police Association's (MBPA) VOYAGE Programme provides a journey of empowerment, knowledge and capacity building. It was designed specifically to help Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) young people in our major cities empower themselves and their peers, to contribute to healthy, safer and vibrant communities. VOYAGE endeavours to create new partnerships with young people and the police service, helping them to take responsibility for their own actions. It also encourages the young people to seek and provide solutions to local youth crime and anti-social behaviour issues. The programme provides a number interventions and opportunities to address issues of youth crime on a local basis.

  7.1.1 VOYAGE provides direct contact with communities who have had a history of disengagement and mistrust of the police, which in turn has presented barriers to:

    —  the nurturing of community intelligence;

    —  reducing the fear of crime;

    —  community reassurance;

    —  understanding priorities within black and minority ethnic communities;

    —  trust and confidence between community and police;

    —  engagement and participation of communities; and

    —  Community Cohesion.

  7.1.2 The MBPA VOYAGE team has delivered across all six Trident boroughs (Southwark, Lambeth, Newham, Haringey, Hackney and Brent), bringing together young people from some of the most challenging neighbourhoods in London. These young people have since engaged and supported the MPS in a number of new and unique ways.

  7.2 The following is a list of VOYAGE components:

    —  Leadership Programme.

    —  Know Your Rights Seminar.

    —  Peace Pledge.

    —  School and College workshops.

    —  Pizza Evenings.

    —  Young Black Positive Advocates—Youth Forum.

7.3  Leadership Programme

  There are two delivery formats for this programme:

  7.3.1 (a) Residential: This is a seven-day intensive programme providing an atmosphere within which young leaders are developed and nurtured. The curriculum has a strong focus on leadership and includes modules on crime, power, governance and media.

  7.3.2 (b) Modular: This is a three-month programme delivered within local communities. The curriculum mirrors that of the Residential, however, the subject matter is explored in far greater detail and there is also a far greater emphasis on local community issues.

7.4  Know Your Rights Seminar

  7.4.1 These are a series of one-day seminars providing young people an outline of their rights and responsibilities when stopped by the police. The course covers legislation and includes a debate with police recruits and the issues of community safety.

7.5  Peace Pledge

  7.5.1 The Peace Pledge is a promise to live a life of non-violence and a commitment not to abuse alcohol or drugs. The Pledge encourages young people to support their local community, schools and families. The Pledge has eight lesson plans aimed at the Citizenship curriculum within secondary schools.

7.6  School and College workshops

  7.6.1 These are workshops run by the MBPA in local schools on issues of community safety, violent crime, bullying, community empowerment and peace.

7.7  Pizza Evenings

  7.7.1 These are events organised by the MBPA where members of the Young Black Positive Advocates (youth forum of the MBPA) are invited to review and comment on police policy and strategy relating to young people. The process provides the YBPA an opportunity to further develop their understanding of the police and contribute to its modernisation. Through this process officers develop a better understanding of young people and in turn informs the development of police policy and strategy.

  7.7.2 The YBPA have recently written a response to the Every Child Matters green paper and are currently in the process of reviewing the three year Children and Young Peoples plan in Haringey, Hackney, Brent, Newham, Southwark and Lambeth.

7.8  Young Black Positive Advocates (YBPA)

  7.8.1 The YBPA is the youth forum of the Metropolitan Black Police Association, there are over two hundred black young people from seven inner city London boroughs in London. The group was created by graduates of the Leadership programme who in their words wanted to "educate the mis-educated" in their schools and youth clubs. The group have already run several youth conferences on various community and youth issues and have hosted two conferences at the House of Commons Portcullis House. They have produced a drugs education magazine called "Drug Rap". The group is regularly asked to comment on issues facing young people in the criminal justice system and education. Young people in the group are aged between 14 to 20 years.

7.9  Views of the Young Black Positive Advocates:

    —  Power of stereotypes—negative imagery through video games, film, newspapers and music videos:

      —  Both young people and the general public believe what they see—even if not real. Young people then adopt the stereotype, as their destiny and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      —  Stereotypes on both sides—during Know Your Rights workshops young people have suggested that they need to remove their stereotypes of police and the criminal justices system in order to create new histories.

    —  Respected not Suspected—speaking to the young people and ask them what they think about the perceptions as well as working with young people to identify how the issue of overrepresentation in the criminal justice can be overcome develops trust and understanding between the two groups.

    —  Lack of cultural competence—a distinct lack of understanding the discipline codes and behavioural codes of black young people can lead to a misjudgement of their behaviour and/or the wrong methodology being used to correct the young person. This can lead to an escalation where based on this lack of understanding situations can be dealt with out of context and extra pressure bought to bear in an attempt to "control" what is perceived as an out of control situation when it is not.

    —  Scars of difficult histories now being softened by the new histories being created through programmes such as Know Your Rights. Transformation of negative perceptions through open and honest dialogue.

    —  Fear—is usually developed from a lack of understanding. Rather than making a swift judgement take the time to talk to them and find out what their needs are ie leadership programme.

  7.9.1 No celebration of young people who do well (and there are lots of them)—so focus constantly on the young people who are challenging. Therefore false expectations set at all level of society from school, to personal, to family, to society.

8.  CONCLUSION

  8.1 The Metropolitan Black Police Association does not believe that there is an inherent or innate difference in offending between young people of different ethnic groups. However, the Association recognises the influence of deprivation, attitudes and expectations of those within the criminal justice system, social exclusion, education, institutional racism and the influences of the media. The black community has to take some responsibility for criminality of their young people, however, this does not take away from the social and economic influences on offender behaviour within urban inner city neighbourhoods. This in turn places a responsibility on those agencies given the task to service local communities. This includes those within the criminal justice system.

9.  RECOMMENDATIONS

    —  Government support for the implement the MBPA VOYAGE programme across the UK.

    —  Consideration to be given to a Judicial Review of Stop and Search practice.

    —  Affirmative action (using the Patten Model for the recruitment of Catholics in the PSNI) to be adopted in the recruitment of black personnel into the police service the police service. It is recognised that this will require legislative change.

    —  Affirmative action to be adopted in the promotion and postings of black personnel within the police service.

    —  Greater educational support to be given to young people excluded from school.

    —  In schools where there is a disproportionate exclusion rate of black children the power should be suspended while an independent review be undertaken of each case. During this period disciplinary matters should be managed by the local education and youth services.

Bevan Powell

Deputy Chair

May 2006





 
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