WHY IT SHOULD BE SAVED FROM BUDGET CUTS
By Lee Jasper
Wednesday, November 24, 2010.
As one of the original founding members and a former Chair of Trident Independent Advisory Group, I’m deeply alarmed by the news that the Metropolitan Police Service Operation Trident investigative unit into armed criminality in the Black community is at risk of being disbanded as a result of cuts to police budgets . I’m deeply worried about the consequences of such a incredibly foolhardy decision that would represent a catastrophic error of huge proportions.
Operation Trident was formed after London’s Black communities reacted furiously at the brutal murder of Marcia Lawes in Brixton in 1995. Eaton Green and Delroy Denton were both recruited in Jamaica by the MPS as informers and flown into the UK in an effort to infiltrate London crack cocaine gangs.
They subsequently went on a national crime spree and Denton went on to rape Marcia Lawes who he brutally raped slashing her throat 18 times. The Black community charged the Met with being in a criminal conspiracy with drug dealers and treating murders and victim’s families with utter contempt.
The uproar that followed the murder of Marcia led to a 20 month formal inquiry by the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), which commissioned an investigation by the Hampshire chief constable, Sir John Hoddinott. Hoddinott determined that despite Green and Denton being active criminal informers who wrecked havoc throughout the UK and the fact that serious crimes were being committed with the full knowledge of the MPS, no police officer was to be charged. Denton later received a life sentence for the murder and was described at his trial as a "sex fuelled psychopath" and "premier league danger to the public".
What the Hoddintott inquiry revealed was that the MPS had a better relationship with criminal informers that it did with the law abiding Black community. Not only that, but they were prepared to recruit a psychotic murderer as an informant rather that build trust and confidence with Black communities.
Lambeth Police Consultative Group demanded that this criminal state of affairs be dealt with by establishing a constructive partnership with Black communities in tackling gun crime. We demanded that the MPS change their tactics and Operation Trident was born. From the onset, this partnership struggled to convince a cynical community who rightly believed that the police were more interested in maintaining corrupt relationships with drug dealers. This was reinforced by the activities of the notorious South East Regional Crime Squad.
The effect of Operation Trident was to send a powerful signal to criminals and the gunmen in our community that the law-abiding majority would not tolerate their activities. As Trident pushed a huge publicity campaign with proactive posters in targeted Black communities and a team of first class detectives who were beyond corruption was assembled. The word went out that the MPS had cleaned up its act. The last 12 years have seen an explosion of partnerships at the local level throughout London and the name of Trident has become feared by the criminal communities of London.
The establishment of Trident was in part a result of the settlement arrived at between the Black community and the Government after the publication of the McPherson Report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. What then followed was in essence represented a social pact. The unspoken deal was that public institutions and Government would deal with their institutional racism and Black communities would now consider entering into police community partnerships and end the 20 year boycott of Black recruitment in to the police service.
An agreement to reduce the number of racist stops and searches, partnership on policing issues in Black communities, the establishment of joint working groups focussing on racial attacks, gun crime and drug gangs, youth violence or Black recruitment into the police service all began to develop as a consequence of the post Scarman/Mcpherson peace pact.
The news today that Operation Trident is to likely be closed down signals the end of that era.
This post McPherson consensus among London’s Black communities and the MPS is now all but dead. It is a sad indictment of Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Theresa May and Commissioner Paul Stephenson, that we are now witnessing the vast majority of race equality advances made over the last decade have for the most part been largely undermined and the reality of racism in terms of operational policing has increased. This is set against a political backdrop of this Government that has clearly demonstrated that it has no real commitment to race equality.
One of the most serious implications of the current budgets cuts and the current political approach in relation to policing and community safety will be a substantive reduction in the priority associated with police accountability, anti racist policing and tackling institutional racism within the police service. We will see the ending of local police consultative groups, a reduction in the number of Black officers, withdrawal of specialist teams like Trident and racial attack investigations units.
Despite the critics of McPherson and race equality initiatives in general, one of the tangible and most constructive benefits of the post Scarman/McPherson settlement was these unique series of partnership with the police and local Black communities to tackle among other things, gun and knife crimes. Over the last 10 years, we have seen a huge increase in local youth diversion, prevention and mentoring projects designed to encourage young people away from serious crime, improve trust and confidence of Black communities, thus fostering positive crime prevention work in partnership with the police.
And over the last decade and for the first time in the previous 30 years, we have seen real improvements in the relationships between police and the Black community.
Today, that partnership is dead and buried. Government and police services have now abandoned any real commitment to tackling racism in the police service and the civic partnership with Black communities in the fight against crime.
The consequences of these cuts are that the very basis of the fight against Black youth violence and criminality, created by entrenched poverty and racism has been destroyed.
Black communities having been previously encouraged and supported to work in partnership with police and statutory authorities in an effort to tackle improve levels of trust and confidence, as well as to tackle serious youth violence and racist attacks. Having tentatively moved toward a lasting a sustainable partnership they now found the rug pulled from underneath them. As a result I believe that we have now been effectively disempowered and abandoned in the fight against crime.
With an expected decrease in policing numbers, likely reductions in the recruitment of Black police officers, large scale increases in Black youth unemployment and poverty, the virtual decimation of the majority of funding to local youth and community projects, alongside the closure of many police and racial attacks monitoring projects, the likely closure of Trident means that the critical infrastructure that supported and gave life to the post Scarman/McPherson settlement is all but gone.
Further with an anticipated increase in crime as Black youth unemployment rises and fewer police officers and youth projects and services aimed at working with alienated and disenfranchised young people, we will see a return to policing of old. This is known as the policing cycle of reinvention.
That cycle results in a self-fulfilling prophecy of higher crime rates leading to increased press demands for more to be done. Increased political pressure will be placed on the police to make arrests, fewer officers dealing with more crime may lead to the adoption of more aggressive policing styles and calls for relaxation of civil liberties legislation to ‘ free officers from red tape and human right laws “. Black communities become completely alienated from and hostile to the police.
The consequences of these cuts will be very serious and herald the return to the time where relationships with Black communities and the police were deeply antagonistic. This represents defining moment in the relationship between the Government, the police and Black communities. We have been abandoned to the drug dealers and armed gangs and the consequences for our communities and the country at large will be profound.
Lee Jasper is a political and community activist. He is a former director of policing and equalities for the previous Mayor of London. He blogs regular at http://leejasper.com/