Sadiq Khan has pledged to overhaul the policing of London’s black communities as Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick admitted the force is “not free of discrimination, racism or bias”.
Black Londoners have for many years had less confidence in the police than their white peers, but that trust has fallen further in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the United States.
His treatment at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked protests across the world this summer, including in London – with demonstrators pointing to problems in the capital.
Black Londoners are four time as likely to be stopped and searched and six times as likely to be stopped while driving as white people.
Last month, the national police watchdog warned that Met officers have been too quick to use force against black Londoners, and have “undermined” stop and search as a result.
The IOPC found that on one occasion two black men were searched because they bumped fists, and officers thought this could show they were dealing drugs.
Now the Mayor of London has promised black communities a bigger role in scrutinising the police, including stop and search, use of force, tasers, and complaints.
The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime will run a race audit of the Met every three months, and London communities will help design its structure.
Stop and search based on the smell of cannabis alone will be subject to pan-London scrutiny panels – but these stops will not be banned, despite the IOPC calling for them to end.
City Hall will spend £1.7 million to improve police training with community input, and to increase recruitment of black police officers.
The Met wants 40% of new recruits to be from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) heritage by 2022 – a percentage that would reflect the diversity of London.
Currently, just 15% of officers are from BAME backgrounds, according to Government figures, meaning the Met has the biggest gap between representation on the force and the people it serves of any UK police service.
Janet Hills, chair of the Met’s Black Police Association, said the investment in recruitment is “encouraging”.
“Black Londoners should view the police service as an employer of choice, and have confidence in them to deliver a fair and equitable service,” she said.
But that is currently not the case: less than half of black Londoners (49%) think the police do a good job in their local area.
This is compared to 57% of white British residents and 65% of other white Londoners, according to City Hall data.
And less than two thirds (59%) of black residents think the police treat everyone fairly – down 21% on last year – compared to almost three quarters (73%) of white Brits in London, and 80% of other white residents.
The Mayor said it is “simply not right” that black Londoners have less confidence in the police that other residents and he is “determined” to solve the problem.
Mr Khan – who has been stopped and searched himself – said officers need to understand the “trauma” that disproportionate action can cause black people.
“In London, we pride ourselves on a being a beacon of diversity and a city that is both fair and inclusive,” he said.
“But the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer, which followed the tragic killing of George Floyd, highlighted how much more we have to do.
“There is no question that our police officers work extremely hard to keep us safe and the Met has made improvements to become a police service more reflective of the city it serves.
“But more must be done – and will be done through this action plan – to properly recognise and address the impact that some police tactics used disproportionately on black people are having.”
Pastor Lorraine Jones’s son Dwayne Simpson was murdered while trying to protect a friend from a knife attack in a Brixton park.
She has built her son’s boxing club into a sports charity that fights gang culture and violent crime, and said she remains “concerned by the scale of violence” in London.
In the decade from 2008 to 2018, black Londoners were almost twice as likely to be knife crime victims as their non-black peers, and five times as likely to be charged for knife crimes.
But Pastor Jones said the Mayor’s new action plan gives black Londoners “something on paper” that will “hold the police to account”.
“It gives me more confidence and a peace for my children and grandchildren to know these changes are going to be made,” she said.
“What the community really needs to see is action and I look forward to seeing the police follow this new framework to strive to be a service that protects all of us.”
Met chief Ms Dick said she wants to lead “the most trusted police service in the world” and “that commitment is as strong as ever”.
“The Met is not free of discrimination, racism or bias,” she said. “I have always acknowledged that and do now again.
“In the Met we have zero tolerance of racism. My job is to continue to try to eliminate any such racism and discrimination, however it appears.”
But Green mayoral candidate and London Assembly member Sian Berry said Ms Dick has “consistently” suggested that “there isn’t a problem at the Met” when challenged on racism in the past.
At an Assembly scrutiny meeting on Wednesday, the Met commissioner said trust in the police was “actually quite high” and the force is probably “the most open in the world”.
Ms Berry warned that the new action plan could become a “PR exercise” to improve public perceptions of the force, and called for genuine action.
“A badly handled, unfair stop and search isn’t just a statistic on a policing database, it’s a person dehumanised, often humiliated and insulted by the experience,” she said.
London Assembly Conservative group leader Susan Hall said the Mayor’s “first priority” to repair trust between the black community and police should be reducing violent crime.
While the use of stop and search must improve, Mr Khan should also “back officers to use this vital tool” to deter knife carrying and keep weapons off London streets, she said.
“Sadiq Khan’s refusal to cut his waste to put more police officers on our streets and his flip-flopping on stop and search has seen crime soar and community policing suffer,” Ms Hall claimed.
“His failure to tackle crime has undermined London’s confidence in the police.”