The South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, last week (Wednesday 9 July 2020) met with Black Community Leaders and Black professionals to discuss their perspective on how policing, criminal justice and council services could improve and better engage with the Black community.
The meeting explored what the police can learn directly from the experience of the Black community and how police and community can work better together
The two hour long Zoom chat, which was chaired by Rob Cotterell, Chair of Sheffield and District African Caribbean Community Association (SADACCA), involved members of the Black community within Sheffield, the Police and Crime Commissioner and members of his office along with Sheffield’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Neighbourhoods, Cllr Paul Wood.
Dr Billings was asked about Stop and Search statistics and what training was provided to officers. He acknowledged there was disproportionality measured against 2011 data, and said this was something he had asked his Independent Ethics Panel to keep under review.
The participants also discussed how the police recruited ethnic minorities and the involvement of more Black people in scrutiny panels that looked at the work of the police in areas of public interest such as Stop and Search.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings said: “Since the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests that happened around the world, I have wanted to meet with those involved to see if we can use this time to make a real difference to the relationships between the police and the Black community.
“Everyone agreed that we didn’t want to be back here again in a few years’ time going over the same ground.
“We discussed the culture of policing and the difficult, though crucial, question of unconscious bias. Unwittingly treating people differently because of the colour of their skin is something we are all prone to do, but we do need to recognise this if unconscious bias is to be eliminated.
“I understood the point made that, if unconscious bias isn’t addressed, it becomes part of an organisation’s culture, in which case, steps have to be taken to prevent it, otherwise recruitment of more Black officers in itself would not lead to change.”
The group also asked about the training of the many new officers who will be joining the force over the next few years. The police will want to develop an inclusive police culture – one in which people of all ethnic groups, and other differences, feel valued and welcome.
The Commissioner added: “I hope we can see more Black members joining scrutiny panels and look forward to continuing this conversation in the future.
“I am grateful for those who gave their time and shared their insights.”
Participant in the meeting Dr David Campbell said: “Black Lives Matter needs to be more than words. It must address systemic racism, cultural imbalance and have clarity in regards to what needs to be done. Actions, outcomes and a structure by which change can be seen and measured.
“As such we need a clear agenda for change focusing on identified key issues, and ultimately we must not be detracted by declarations of intent, non-directional meetings, talk shops and those who are not committed to the journey that is change”
The group has committed to working together more closely and intend to meet on a bi-monthly basis to discuss improvements which have been made and further actions that can be taken.