Monday 24 February 2014
Boycott The Police: A radical response to institutionalised racism and criminalisation of black communities
British Black Communities face apartheid style policing in England and Wales; Responding to Institutional Racism in policing
BARAC UK has issued this discussion paper to provide a clear political focus in the national debate about stop and search and how we tackle discriminatory, oppressive and racist policing. We request that this paper is circulated widely and its contents thoroughly debated. We welcome all responses.
In this paper we consciously use the term Police Force as opposed to Police Service to reflect the calamitous changes in policing style and community perception of policing. Over recent years there is a growing animosity between black communities and the police. Racial profiling, deaths in custody, police violence, corruption and police brutality are all issues of acute concern.
As a result, increasing numbers of poor black, white and Muslim communities perceive the police as a hostile occupying force, not as a genuine non-discriminatory professional public service.
BARAC is independent and not funded by either local authorities or the government. The State funding of organisations is an important dynamic in holding back and restraining the debate on institutional racism in policing however our independence is sacrosanct to ensuring we can articulate radical solutions to the problems we face.
Tragically, far too many of Black, Asian and minority ethnic organisations have been reduced to reaming silence fearing for their funding if they speak the truth. We suffer no such constraints.
Are we all equal before British law?
Human rights are based on core principles like dignity, fairness, equality, respect and autonomy. BARAC believes that to protect your rights and get fair and equal services from public authorities, political campaigning is fundamental in seeking to preserve and advance all of our human rights.
Equality before the law is one of the most fundamental of universal human right concepts. That all citizens are equal before the law, remains a central tenant of all modern democracies, the reality for poor Black and Muslim citizenships, is that we are treated like third class citizens, living in a largely theoretical first class democracy.
Ethnicity remains a key determinant of access to equality of opportunity, fair and equal treatment and justice.
Britain has failed to tackle the perennial prejudice that is a consequence of a society whose culture which is increasingly discriminating against black people, women, the disabled, young and older people, the poor and the vulnerable.
Racism in Britain today, continues to destroy lives, leaving communities facing acute levels of economic exclusion, profound injustice and as a result suffering deep alienation. English and Welsh Police Forces have become the lead state agents in the continued illegal oppression of Black and Muslim communities.
Such is the scale of the racism we face from Police Forces that racism has become a way of life, industrial in scale, literally damaging the lives of millions.
The acute crisis in relations between Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities is nowhere more apparent than in the nation’s most diverse city, London.
BARAC believes the overwhelming evidence of continued and profound discrimination in the areas of policing and criminal justice requires a determined legal human rights challenge and a radical political response capable of delivering real change. This response cannot be led by politicians, it must be led by democratically accountable, Black, Asian and minority ethnic community based organisations.
Institutional racism in policing and criminal justice is pernicious, toxic and out of control. The published data demonstrates clearly, that in many major cities throughout England and Wales, Police Forces are in the business of racially targeting Black and Muslim communities.
Such is the level of unchecked institutional racism, that what we have in many cities in England and Wales, is apartheid style policing.
No doubt many liberals will think such a statement exaggerated however we have overwhelming evidence of gross abuse, along side a cannon of statistical and research data that presents a powerful, compelling case for urgent and radical action.
Institutional racism produces apartheid policing.
Black, Asian and ethnic minority peoples are routinely harassed, going about their lawful business on a daily basis, communities are being criminalised wholesale. The police disproportionately and routinely charge us for crimes, for which they caution white people. The dispensation of justice in England and Wales today, has more in common with the apartheid system of justice in South Africa or the Jim Crow justice of the American South during the 1950s.
The incidence of suspicious deaths of Black men in police custody, the recent inquest verdict into the shooting of Mark Duggan, the ongoing scandal of stop and search, the fact that we suffer more injuries as a result of violent arrests, the massively disproportionate use of tasers when arresting black people, the use of the thoroughly discredited law of Joint Enterprise, the experience of Black police officers suffering disproportionate disciplinary actions and being denied promotion, the ideological hatred of anti-racism by right wing Tories, the arrogance and complacency of politicians, have all combined to end with Post McPherson détente or settlement.
Having forced the police and Government, as a result of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, to accept that institutional racism was real and to take strong measures to eradicate, Black communities accepted that a career as a police officer was something they could now positively consider. In addition we began the process of working in partnership to tackle gun and knife crime in our communities, all beneficial products of the post McPherson settlement. Black recruitment rose significantly and all over the country we formed crime reduction partnerships to tackle serious violence in black communities.
That settlement, that had so much potential to deliver a non-racist police service and much improved relations with black communities, no longer exists. Its dead, the détente is over and the police have resumed hostilities and the large scale oppression of Black and Muslim communities. In short, the police freed from what they saw as the ‘restraints’ imposed by McPherson’s anti-racist policies have returned to their organisational cultural default setting, institutional racism.
We have been betrayed and abused.
Today, Black communities betrayed by politicians of all parties, battered by institutional racism in policing and criminal justice systems, have returned to the perspective that the police represent an oppressive army of occupation.
As the Coalition Government and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, led the political attack and abandoned all serious political commitment to monitoring and implementing the recommendations of the McPherson report, two things have happened;
1. The police immediately jettisoned the term ‘institutional racism’ and with it went their commitment to anti-racism.
2. Over the last five years, police racism has returned with bloody vengeance.
The level of open resistance and hostility, from senior police officers and this Coalition government toward any sensible political or policy discussion to redress this awful state of affairs is palpable. The Association of Police Officers, (ACPO), the Metropolitan Police Force, both New Labour and later the Tory party’s rank and files’ revulsion of all things McPherson, first undermined, then slowed down, then killed off and finally reversed any and all previous momentum gained in tackling police racism.
What to do about police racism?
BARAC’s view is that nothing less than an all-out, board based, major escalation of a national community led campaign against police racism stands any chance of forcing Government, Chief Constables, the Mayor of London and Police and Crime Commissioners to the negotiating table.
Refusal to acknowledge the reality of institutional racism results in cosmetic palliative measures being adopted where radical surgery is required. Incorrect diagnosis of the problem or acute denial can only further aggravate and inflame relations. BARAC does not believe that rioting can in anyway help deal with this political issue.
As we have seen in the aftermath of 2011 the State uses such outburst to then severely punish in the courts entire communities and further equip the police with more weapons increasing the worryingly trend of offensive militarisation .
Call for a national boycott.
The time is right to maximise political pressure on Government in the run up to local elections in May 2014 and the forthcoming general election a year later. Here we explain our position that only by calling a national boycott of all black police recruitment and the withdrawal of all but the most urgent and essential contact with the police, will result in real change.
The evidence of racism is overwhelming and compelling.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate Constabularies report published in July 2009 reported that Stop and Search was both ‘intrusive and contentious’ threatening to undermined the legitimacy of the police. The report also concluded that 30 of the 43 forces in England and Wales have no idea how to use the power nor are they aware of the negative impact on communities. They also found that 27% of these stops were in fact unlawful.
In January 2012 we saw Stuart Lawrence, brother of Stephen, complain of being consistently targeted by Met officers for no other reason than the colour of his skin. In March the same year, a Met police officer was recorded telling a black youth ’you’re problem is you’ll always be a n****r'. At a subsequent criminal trial, the police officer was remarkably acquitted by a jury of using racist abusive language.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission revealed that in a two month period in 2013 it received over 50 race complaints alone. Let’s remember, these are recorded complaints that are dwarfed by the mountain of unreported police racism incidents that occurs on a daily basis by a community that has lost faith in making any complaints about police racism.
The famous spoken word poet Lemn Sissay wrote passionately and with conviction about having been stopped over 50 times and the anger and frustration such encounters breed. October 2013 saw the arrest of famous British actor Daniel Kaluuya, 24, who is currently suing the Metropolitan Police for assault and false imprisonment after he was wrongly suspected of being a drug dealer.
Stop & search reform: A national scandal.
The planned reform of Stop and Search powers announced by the Home Secretary in July 2013 was a cynical attempt at creating the impression that Government really cared about racism. When in fact, the announcement was timed to deflect attention and dampen anger at the revelation by a former undercover officer Peter Francis that on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Force had participated in a covert police operation to ‘spy’ and ‘smear’ Stephen Lawrence’s family, friends and supporters.
The recent debate in Government about stop and search is interesting. The idea that the Prime Minster and the Home Secretary are at ‘war’ over Theresa May’s planned reform of the power, is laughable.
The reality of what’s going on is somewhat different for those whose liberty depends on the outcome of such debates. Closer scrutiny reveals this ‘tiff’ amounts to a pre-planned squabble, nothing more than a carefully rehearsed, choreographed, manufactured argument, designed to appease angry black voters. It’s the political equivalent of smoke and mirrors.
Close examination reveals the Home Secretary’s actual response to the summer consultation on this issue. What Theresa May has done is talk tough in public on this issue but in reality delivered nothing more than a conveniently timed punch up with the PM.
May has carefully dropped any plans to reform PACE stop and searches and concentrated her efforts solely on reforming Section 60 stops. Nice sleight of hand because these stops constitute only a tiny fraction of the overall number PACE stops and searches taking place.
Whatever the manufactured debate between N0 10 and the Home Office, the crisis of confidence can’t be fixed by a quick sound bite. In recent years Black people in Britain have been subjected to the single most sustained and targeted campaign of police harassment ever seen in Britain.
The Police power of stop and search results in the mass criminalisation of Black, Asian and ethnic minority people.
A quick look at the figures for Stop & Search since 1998 (the year before the publication of the McPherson report), saw these figures rising from 100,000 per year in 1998 to a staggering 1.1 million in 2012.
The most devastating report to be published in 2013 with a focus on police racism is the Release Report : The Numbers in Black & White Ethnic Disparities in Policing and Prosecution of Drug Offences In England & Wales.
The report makes compelling and frightening reading. What the report details, is the inescapable facts that prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that stop and search focusing on drug possession and driven by the existence of police targets has led to the mass criminalisation of literally hundreds of thousands of Black and Asian young people England and Wales is unduly focused on black and minority communities.
This report looks at racial disparity rates of stop and search, arrest, prosecution and sentencing and clearly demonstrates that the drug laws in the UK are a major driver of the disproportionality that exists in our criminal justice system in relation to the black community.
Its findings provide the most conclusive and irrefutable, evidence that racism is driving the wholesale, mass criminalisation of black communities in Britain. The arbitrary and racist use of this power has resulted in over 77% of black men between the ages of 15 -34 having their DNA on the police national database.
The conclusion we draw from this evidence is that the Metropolitan Police’s war against drugs, is in fact, a de facto war against black people with the aim of criminalizing entire communities. This has produced what can only be described, given its scale and intensity as apartheid style policing in London.
Stop and search is the police operation tool, or dragnet, which sweeps up and feeds our young black people into an institutionalized and racist criminal justice system, where on average black people receive 20% longer sentence than a white person convicted of the same crime, with a much longer criminal record.
The research shows that a black person arrested for drugs, with a small amount of previous convictions, unbelievably still receives a longer prison sentence, than white criminals arrested for drugs, who have much more extensive criminal records.
Another important publication is the bi annual report, Ministry of Justice on Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2012 found that nationally the use of Stop and Search has increased by 7% since 2010.
This latest report shows, that in the five years from 2008 to 2012, a massive 814,000 Black people have been subjected to this dragnet power, 523,000 Asians and 158,000 people of mixed heritage. That is a staggering 1.5m Black and minority ethnic peoples who have been subjected to the use of this power.
In terms of arrest Black people are no more likely to be arrested than whites and this means that over 1 million Black, Asian and minority ethnic people were subjected to arbitrary, probably illegal and racist use of the power. That industrial scale equals institutional racism.
Recent revelations by the Sunday Mirror reporter Justin Penrose, indicate Metropolitan Police Officers are being told they have to use the power at least 15 times a month or face disciplinary action. Evidence that targets are driving police racism in stop and search and arrest rates can also be found in the Release Report that confirmed the existence of these deeply worrying targets despite the Metropolitan Police Force’s trenchant denials.
In the current climate where issues of Plebgate, Duggan, spying on the Lawrence’s and spying on and infiltration of anti –racist groups, Levenson and undercover police officers like Mark Kennedy, the Police are increasingly and routinely disbelieved.
We do not believe that Stop and Search figures are coming down as recently suggested by the Metropolitan (Met) Police Force. The reality is more people are being stopped but no stop slips are being offered. If we can not believe the Met’s own crime figures as recent admissions have shown then why should we believe their figures on stop and search.
Why is this all happening now?
The real reason for this explosion in state sanctioned racism is the historical failure of New Labour to support the long term drive to tackle police racism and today the deeply ideological driven political attack on the concepts of multiculturalism, anti-racism and institutional racism by the Conservative Party.
The intent is classic Toryism designed to distract the public’s attention away from the architects of our economic crisis, greedy bankers and one way of doing that is to significantly ramp up racism.
BARAC argues that we now need to boycott any Constabulary that does not fully accept that reality of institutional racism and / or refuses to work in partnership with communities to rid themselves of this disease. Partnership in this context means genuine accountable representation from communities, not unaccountable, handpicked police candidates.
This demand must be elevated to a national priority if we are to stem the precipitous political decline of the priority accorded to equality and anti-racism on Government and elsewhere.
BARAC calls for organisations and individuals to discuss and hopefully endorse the following urgent demands;
• BARAC asks that organisations register their support for our efforts to challenge Government indifference to the racism we face.
• To end all non-essential contact with all Police Forces in England and Wales that do not, publicly and formally accept that they are an institutional racist organisation.
• To call a national boycott of all black police recruitment to the police until such time that institutional racism is taken seriously and real steps are taken to act to eradicate it.
• To hold to account and challenge any one individual or organisation that seeks to work with the police whilst they refuse to accept the reality of institutional racism.
BARAC believes tactically, it is better to institute a national boycott now rather than allow frustrations to continue to build and then deal with the consequences of riots later. Such a boycott can only be achieved with broad based support from individuals, businesses, community organisations, faith groups, trade unions and the wider labour movement. All are negatively affected by civil disturbances and all should support any proposal that is capable of averting an explosion of violence on our streets.
BARAC in partnership with a range of other campaigning organisations will be calling a national summit on racism in the criminal justice system.
We urge you to debate these issues using the boycott proposal to stimulate debate. BARAC is happy to provide speakers in support of our proposal.
Please send your responses, enquiries and statements of support for this paper, or if you are keen to be involved in the planning of our national summit please email us at barac.info.gmail.com
We would ask that you sign up in support of these demands and publicise in your local area. Further we ask that you join BARAC Facebook and follow us on our twitterfeed @BARACUK
Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK
National Co-Chairs: Lee Jasper & Zita Holbourne