During the tenure of Boris Johnson and his erstwhile Deputy Kit Malthouse relations between London’s black communities and the Metropolitan Police Service have reached crisis point.
Each day that tension increases as the Mayor and current Commissioner struggle to find an adequate political and professional response to the huge issues that now face London.
The case of Mauro Demetrio, a 21 year old black man who recorded the most foul and repugnant racist abuse reminiscent of the 1950’s Deep South Jim Crow racism of Birmingham Alabama, has created a profound sense of anger in black communities.
Luckily this brave young man recorded abuse that has anecdotally become increasingly routine over the last four years. The general consensus among black communities is that, had he not had the foresight to record the conversation, the outcome would have been a dismissed police complaint and a charge for some trumped up crime.
More worryingly is the fact that neither the Crown Prosecution Service nor the MPS saw it fit to begin criminal or disciplinary proceedings against the officer concerned PC Alex MacFarlane.
Why for example was not every single officer concerned with this case suspended and interviewed? Any that were aware of what happened are as guilty as MacFarlane. As far as the CPS is concerned the initial decision not to take action was disgraceful and immediate action should be taken to put disciplinary charges to those who were involved in this ludicrous decision.
The damage to confidence is palpable. How can black people trust that the police are committed to tackling racism when all the evidence points to rampant institutional racism? We have witnessed coordinated misinformation campaigns smearing the victims of deaths in custody, police and press corruption, black men being tasered and shot, racially abused and black children assaulted.
All this, in the context of little or no justice and no political or professional accountability.
Now we hear of the case of a 15 year old black boy who is said to have been assaulted by PC Joe Harington in the custody area of an east London police station, the very same one that the arrested Mauro Demetrio was taken to.
This reveals a pervasive culture of institutional racism that has been unrestrained and given a green light by Boris Johnson. His personal failure to recognise and accept in policy terms the reality of multicultural London has been tragic.
He has failed to tackle gun and knife crime, failed to deliver his much vaunted Mayoral Fund, failed to implement his proposals on a mentoring scheme over the last two years, despite lots of warnings that relations with the police were in total meltdown. Stop and search rates have increased by 300% over the last four years and suspicious deaths in custody by a 100%.
Boris Johnson’s abysmal failure to recognise what was in plain sight, meant he did not recognise the potential significance of the shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham last year despite being warned time and time again. The riots were entirely preventable and swift and effective intervention by the Mayor’s Office and the MPS was essential. Both made a critical series of errors that demonstrated just how out of touch Boris, Kit and the Commissioner were.
Their collective failures to understand, be in touch with and maintain effective communication with London’s black community, along with the Mayor’s ideological blind spot on race, resulted in him dismissing as politically motivated those critical voices, like mine, who predicted the riot some months earlier.
That critical error by the Mayor to invest time and resources in addressing black communities’ concerns allowed anger to build. Unbelievably, once the announcement that the Metropolitan Police Authority was being disbanded, all of the policy monitoring infrastructure related to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry recommendations were abolished.
There was a clear absence of political pressure on the MPS to tackle racism. Johnson went so far as to say at the publication of the controversial Race and Faith Report that the MPS was no longer ‘institutionally racist’.
I put these points to Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse at one of his recent community consultations: his view was that he did not recognise my analysis of the situation. He told me that police community relations were nowhere near as bad as I described. He advised me to speak to the Black Police Association who would tell me the ‘good things we are doing’. I did speak with them and they agreed with me that relations were in a parlous state.
I asked the same of Commissioner Hogan-Howe a few weeks ago during an online Q&A session. He responded by saying that he disagreed with my view and relations although difficult, were not strained. These comments illustrate what happens when there is strategic political failure to grasp the importance of race equality policy and anti racist leadership.
For a multicultural and diverse city like London, the failure to understand and be in touch with all sections of London’s communities is absolutely vital. Johnson’s failure in this regard has been monumental. He has single handedly degraded policing race policy priorities and police and black community relations, destroying years of progress made. Today any gains made have been pushed back and the issues that informed them inflamed and regressed. This acute political failure has cost London and the country dear and I fear things are about to get much worse after these recent incidents.
By Lee Jasper