So, I am sure you have seen the headlines about the knife crime epidemic that has hit the UK. It has been a talking point on and off for the last 18 months – 2 years. Unfortunately, the media is focusing on the negative impact that it is having within the black community; in particular on our young boys and men which we have lost far too many of, to the gangs and the street. Rightly so some may say, something has to be done about it.
But discussions have gone round and round and round like a hamster in a wheel and nothing much has come of the discussions. The right people are not being involved in talks and their input has been ignored and many of the public are influenced by the biased and some what negative narrative that the media spouts out daily. Whilst in London most MP’s are slow to act with the Mayor of London pointing fingers at the Conservative Party and the Conservative party are pointing fingers back at the Mayor.
We have people like Piers Morgan, a middle class and privileged white man, who has elected himself as a spokes person regarding this issue, co-signing the narrative of his media chums. He does not listen, engage with the right people or facilitate a balanced and fair debate but thinks he has the right to tell people about what he believes should be done; totally disregarding the social, economical, educational, health and institutional racism which the majority of these young men face – daily. The few and very noted times Piers’ opinions have been corrected (the first in November 2018 when he was put straight by former MET Police Super Intendant Leroy Logan and The United Boarders Project founder Justin Finlay) most recently – this week by GMB Weatherman Reporter Alex Beresford , neither he, nor the media, nor the MP’s have bothered to really research, come into the communities affected by this or engage with the right people.
To prove my point, on GMB this week (and no doubt to lick his wounds of embarrassment by being challenged and corrected by Alex), Piers decided to raise the argument about knife crime with his guest – Lord Sugar and they both concluded that the issues all stems from the home and education. Lord Sugar went as far as to say that the education system does not account for those who are not academically blessed – this is totally shocking! Leaving me questioning what demographic of people were they actually referring to? I personally, know a lot of BAME individuals and we have all been raised to respect one another, our society and elders and moreover, we are all extremely articulate and educated individuals! Yet they rather sit behind the cameras or computers and spout what they think with no regards to those who have lived or are living it daily.
Suddenly, there is a new found urgency to address knife crime in the UK; I am very sceptical and so are many others I have encountered recently about the reasons for this. A life taken violently is extremely horrific to the victims loved ones and friends and having experienced a loss through violence within my own local community last year, I can testify that it does seriously impact and have rippling effects on so many people. However, something which Doreen Lawrence said about the lack of urgency to resolve this issue due to the ethnicity of the stab victims rings true whereby, sadly the loss of two white teenagers recently has suddenly changed the importance and immediacy of preventing knife crime. The Prime Minister, Theresa May refuses to listen (as usual) and has declared that those carrying knifes will be targeted like Jihadist terrorist….. Wow, the Home Secretary is now knocking on the door of the Chancellor to get more funding to recruit more Police Officers and we have a number of people with influence shouting from the roof tops that stop and search needs to be increased.
I have previously written about stop and search last year, so I won’t go over old grounds however, statistically and factually it does not work and as we know already it disproportionately affects black boys and men. I have heard a number of people say it shouldn’t be an issue if you have nothing to hide, yes they are correct but the point they are actually overlooking is that NOT EVERY BLACK MALE IS IN A GANG. What happens to those (and I have seen this happen) who are legitimate young men doing their everyday thing who are also subjected to stop and search simply because they are black? I have witnessed frustrated black men being stopped and searched by the police, not for being stopped but because on that same day they had been stopped TWO or even THREE times earlier. Is society really saying its ok for this to happen? That every black man should be tarred with the same brush because of a small minority of individuals?
I have engaged with a charity called Release who do amazing work regarding stop and search, they work across the UK educating young people about stop and search, their rights and how to manage a situation if or when they are stopped. Stop and search is not going away anytime soon and I think as a community and as senior members in our environments (that our children are depending on) we need to be doing our bit, we need to educate ourselves about stop and search. But we need to go a little bit further than this – if we see our young boys and men being stopped and search we need to be stopping and observing the procedure to ensure that the police are doing their jobs correctly. We don’t need to be saying anything; we do not need to use our mobile phones to record the incident, unless absolutely necessary, just standing at a distance so as not to obstruct the police, but close enough for our presence to be felt.
I have done this, it’s extremely effective. I let the young men and Police know that I was there to observe that the Police are following the process correctly and to prevent any escalation. I let them all know that the Police have a job to do, but we need to ensure that they do it correctly and fairly. The young men were appreciative as I was not judging them but I was there to support them, it actually speeded up the process and the Police (who were initially aggressive when they approached the men) were calm and respectful towards them at the end.
As a reminder please click on the link here for an outline of the process that should be adhered to when stop and searches are being carried out and below I have included my pointers on how we should be observing. I think we need to conduct positive actions as the situation needs to be addressed, but we cannot depend on the government to resolve the issue, we need to be doing our part also. If we stopped and observed when we witness a stop and search we would be doing something rather than nothing.
There are no formal guidelines on what to do as a general member of the public when observing an incident, however as a bystander I would recommend that first and foremost if you decide to watch a stop and search the following guidelines should be applied (not exclusive):
1. Always use your judgement when you witness a situation, ensure that you stand at a distance which does not obstruct the police carrying out their routine, but close enough that your presence is noted and you are able to see what is going on.
2. When engaging with the police, always be polite. Talking aggressively or being frustrated never helps any situation and certainly doesn’t help you or the person(s) undergoing the stop and search. If asked why you are there, remain calm and let the police and the individual know that you are observing the process.
3. You can lawfully record an encounter between the police and a member of the public; however, the only exception when the police can ask you not to record is if they are dealing with any counter terrorism incident. If the situation is in control and has not escalated I would recommend not recording the incident, as mentioned before you don’t want to aggravate the situation and it is also respectful of the privacy of person(s) who is being searched.
4. If you have any concerns about the welfare of an individual you do have the right to call the police on the police telephone number e.g. dial 999 or contact the local police station and report your concerns about the incident and ask for another police officer to attend.
5. I would recommend that this would be the most appropriate time to record the incident and if possible from a reasonable distance take the police officers warrant number (normal this is on display on their uniform). If that is not possible take the registration number of the police vehicle.
6. If (let’s hope this is a rarity) the situation leads to an arrest and you become a witness to the situation or if you believe the police failed to follow protocol you can report this by contacting the local police station, either in person at the station or via the local police online service. Or you can contact the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) online complaints portal. However, if you do not feel comfortable with this doing this then get in contact with the charity Release who will be able to assist you.
United we stand, divided we fall – Let’s rise up and support our young!