The Report on the Metropolitan Police Service handling of complaints alleging race discrimination that was released on the 17th of July 2013 highlights some key areas around public confidence building, particularly with Black and Minority Ethnic communities. It quotes the report of the independent panel set up to examine and understand why the riots of August 2011 took place and highlights the fact that, “by improving the quality of minor encounters, the Met can dramatically improve their relationship with communities.”
The report goes onto highlight the most recent IPCC survey of public confidence in the complaints system (2011), which “showed a marked lack of confidence in the complaints system from ethnic minority respondents, 43% of whom feared that their complaint would not be taken seriously, and 40% of whom feared that they would suffer harassment if they complained.”
These descriptions resonate with the work of TELL MAMA particularly around community confidence. TELL MAMA has been running since March 2012, yet time and time again, a lack of public confidence about reporting issues to local forces comes up since many from BAME communities believe that nothing will be achieved by reporting in, particularly around ‘low level’ incidents such as race or faith hate incidents. BAME public confidence around reporting in low level hate incidents and specific complaints against the police needs to be worked upon as the iPCC report outlines.
The iPCC report also looks at the communication sent to complainants and conducted a case ‘dip test’ and file review. It adds,
“The evidence from the file review was that outcome letters were sent at the conclusion of investigations; however the majority of them followed a standard format which focussed on whether officers had a case to answer for misconduct without also considering whether there had been a failure in service. Some of these letters, particularly drafted at borough level, were extremely poor. Investigating officers had obviously used templates and some appear to have used several template paragraphs mixed together, giving the impression that the writers did not understand what they were saying about the police complaints system.”
TELL MAMA is aware through victim feedback that communication from forces, including the MET, to keep victims updated on their cases, is poor and that more needs to be done to keep victims informed on what is taking place regarding investigations and outcomes. Simply sending a letter to the victim explaining the outcome of a case is not sufficient and does not help to instil public confidence, particularly if the victim was initially hesitant to report in their concerns. Good clear communication is the fundamental building block to developing strong community confidence in a public service delivery agency.
The report goes onto focus on the quality of investigations and states that:
“even though exploring perception is difficult and time consuming, it is an essential part of dealing with race complaints and goes beyond examining the incident complained about in isolation. This difficulty may be compounded if, on the face of it, the complaint appears to be a minor one, or without obvious function. However, as stated above, the subtler forms of racism or discriminatory treatment may been just as damaging as, and more pervasive than, direct or overt racist behaviour or language. It does not appear that investigating officers, particularly at borough level, have had the time or training to explore such issues effectively.”
Given that in 2012 and early 2013, the TELL MAMA data on cases shows that in quite a number of cases of anti-Muslim prejudice reported in, racism and anti-Muslim prejudice take place in incidents against the victim, it is imperative that forces receive training on how to identify, record and work through such cases. With these added complexities, it is fundamental that forces look at immediate training and on-going support in order to upskill officers.