On the 4 June I wrote to Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, to ask for her assurance that Black Lives Matter protests in the UK will not be met with the same vicious and unjustified violence which we have seen across the United States. I further asked her to recommit to eliminating racism across our criminal justice system. You can see my letter in full below:
Dear Home Secretary,
I write to you in relation to the racist murder of George Floyd by serving police officers in the United States, and the explosion of rightful protest that has followed around the world.
What we are seeing in many places in the United States is the very opposite of a policing by consent model. In many of the videos that have emerged and are being very widely circulated in our communities, U.S. police officers appear to have responded to reasonable and peaceful acts of protest with vicious and completely unjustified violence. The response to the protest has repeated the appalling pattern of events to which the protests themselves are a response: brutal unjust violence by police officers, directed disproportionately at Black Americans, and with no culpability whatsoever unless and until the abuses are documented and protested by large numbers in the community.
I hope you will agree that it is the greatest importance that the protests here in the UK are policed in an entirely different way – with clear communication, proportionality, care, and consent from our communities. There have already been a few incidents of police use of force recorded by protestors that appear to break these essential principles. I urge you to engage very closely with our police services to ensure that these principles are upheld, so that we can honestly say that our police services are fundamentally different.
You will know that the Black Lives Matter movement has rightly renewed focused attention onto the inequalities in our own criminal justice system, and the widely reported point that no police officer in the UK has ever been convicted of the murder or manslaughter of someone in their custody. It is critically important that we ensure that our mechanisms for police accountability are as robust and independent as possible.
I would be grateful for a response setting out what actions the Government plans to take to address these urgent issues, including:
- Progress with the Government’s response to the Lammy Review.
- Increasing BAME and especially Black representation across the criminal justice system, not only for police staff but for prosecutors, Judges and others as well.
- Monitoring and progress with the independence, powers, and efficiency of the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
- Actions taken to empower community leaders in holding police services to account.
- Cross-Departmental work to ensure that frontline services other than the police are well funded and able to respond quickly to problems that emerge, or prevent potential problems from escalating. This includes youth workers, social workers, and community mental health staff.
I look forward to reading your response.