Despite the temperatures and the rain this weekend summer is on the way!
First up: Commonwealth Games leave restrictions. I’m well aware restrictions are never popular after what could be two years without a proper summer holiday. I’m sorry we’ve had to do this and I understand the impact this may have on you and your families. It’s why we wanted to tell you about the restrictions more than a year in advance.
The games are a huge operation for the force. The event is going to be exciting and a fantastic time for policing in the region. I want to assure everyone that we will do all we can to be flexible on leave around these dates as the plans develop. We will keep you updated.
The progress on lifting restrictions and ending our responsibilities under COVID legislation will be welcomed by all of us as police and private citizens. However, I don’t think this is the end of the COVID related challenges.
Having watched the disorders in Europe and the extraordinary scenes in Manchester at the weekend, there is a growth in protest activity and associated disorderly behaviour in developed nations after the turmoil of the last few months. We are very fortunate that despite the growth in protests locally, they have not been violent. I think that is credit to local people and your policing.
Nevertheless the last year has seen a rise in anti-police sentiment; a sense in some quarters we are over-criticised and undervalued by some. As an example, violent behaviour against officers at Old Trafford was unacceptable and I have no interest in understanding the people’s motives for this as they were criminal.
This week some of you will have seen Jess’s story on Newsbeat describing her mixed experience as a victim of hate crime as an officer. Around 7% of our hate crimes have WMP staff as a victim. We are dealing with these crimes as part of our focus on officer assaults and ACC Claire Bell and Chief Supt Ian Green asked for the story to be shared. The force does not accept attacks on officers but, even with busy workloads, we all need to ensure officers are treated as victims. We need to support each other.
In dealing with the impact recent events have had on our relationship with the public, we will need to use the opening up of society to start building physical engagement with communities, particularly the young. Just as we have in life over the last few months we could form new habits, some good and some bad.
We could easily get out of the habit of physically connecting with the public and building the legitimacy that is critical to our role. We can all play our part in this as your personal interactions really count.
Next week is Black Inclusion Week and coincides with one year since George Floyd’s death. If there is one section of the public we need to work hard to build links with, it is our black communities.
Put simply, too few black people want to join the force; which breaks my heart as we have made so much progress on inclusion. Black communities have lower trust in policing and feel over policed and under protected.
Black people are more likely to be searched or have forced used on them, but black men are significantly more likely to be a victim of homicide or an offender and we feel a need to intervene to stop this. Sometimes trying to make things better can create tensions. Black youth unemployment is at 35% according to recent national research and so young people face a tough time.
Last year after George Floyd’s death, I apologised for what we have got wrong in the past and said that we are an imperfect force. I also set out my frustration of being trapped in a difficult relationship between policing and black communities; one that often fails to recognise the people of good heart who make up policing. Last year was about deficits and what’s missing.
This year is about building on strengths and being better. Talking up policing. There is a lot going on in Black inclusion Week. One of the highlights includes asking black officers to patrol for a shift on a day in Lozells.
This is not tokenism and I really want people to do this. We want the public to see we have black officers and how they could have a part in our service. In 2015 I marched with black officers in Handsworth and Lozells as part of the National BAPA conference here. It was a transformational moment for me as I saw the impact on the community.
Can I encourage black officers to join this event and for leaders to free them up for this? This is important. We must also remember it is everyone’s job to see how we can build these links. Do you have an idea that could help with this?
We are keen to fund and support innovative ideas by those working in communities.