Wednesday, 14 November 2012

PCC Accountability Assembly

Nottingham Citizens (who are a broad based alliance of Nottingham based community organisations) held an event earlier this week to challenge the prospective Police Crime Commissioners to commit to specific actions aimed at addressing issues of concern to Nottingham's citizens.

Called a “PCC Accountability Assembly”, the event was attended by almost 1000 people from over 30 community groups including trade unions, faith groups, schools and universities (together representing tens of thousands of Nottinghams Citizens) who came together to challenge the candidates to commit to implementing four “Asks”, which had been debated by the Nottingham Citizens groups over a period of several weeks and voted on in a gathering of over 170 people on October 17th.

The candidates had been given the “Asks” some weeks before and had been invited to discuss them with Nottingham Citizens in the intervening period and, at the event, were given 7 minutes each to tell the assembly their response

Some of the nearly 1000 citizens at the assembly


The “Asks”

Safer Schools
Every week in Nottingham, schools receive an average of four “alerts” from Police, informing them of incidents where schoolchildren, very often girls, were approached by adults in an inappropriate way around schools and school bus routes. These incidents can cause real and long lasting trauma to the children concerned, leaving them fearful when walking to school. It was particularly sad to hear how parents who had had once of their children go through such an incident became overprotective of their other, younger, children, in an attempt to ensure that theydid not suffer something similar - or something worse.

The "Ask" was for the Prospective PCCs to commit to ensuring that there was a PCSO at least once a week on the core 6-8 bus routes used by children in Nottingham for a 12 month trial period and to help develop a Nottingham Strategy for School Children.


Sensible Stop and Search
A member of Nottingham’s Black community came to the stage, wearing a hoody, and described how fumbling for his car keys had resulted in him being stopped and searched by Police. He then removed his hoody to reveal that he was Bishop Paul Thomas. Bishop Thomas pointed out that Black people were nine times more likely to be stopped and searched than whites, while Asians were four times more likely. He acknowledged that stop and search was a valuable tool, saying that if he matched the description of someone who had just commit a burglary he wanted to be stopped in order to protect his neighbourhood. But like all powers, stop and search needed to be used intelligently.

Bishop Paul added that, whilst a receipt was given for stop and searches, there was no receipt given for “stop and account” incidents, and that this was an injustice.

He also described how difficult these incidents made it for him to teach youngsters to respect and co-operate with the Police, a comment which brought home just how counter productive excessive stop and search actions were.

The “Ask” was for the Prospective PCCs to commit to retaining receipts for Stop and Search, detailing the individuals age, ethnicity and the purpose of the stop - and to introduce receipts for Stop and Account. Also to make the resulting data available to the University of Nottingham and NTU so that proportionality can be reviewed.


When wearing a hoody, Bishop Paul Thomas is a candidate for Stop and Search


A Safer City Centre
A citizen living close to Forest Rec described how, soon after moving to the area some 20 years ago, his neighbours were blessed with a lovely baby girl. He happened to see this same girl, now a young adult, recently and asked how she was. She replied that she has recently been the victim of a violent attack whilst crossing the Forest Rec in daylight. The citizen pointed out that it was sad that he had been almost relieved to hear that she had not been the person who had been viciously attacked after being 20p short of her bus fare.

The Citizen went on to say that, not long after this conversation, his wife was injured in an attempted burglary on Forest Rec and that the PSCO who attended said that the Rec should be a no-go area.

A No-Go area? In central Nottingham? In daylight? In the 21st Century?

That cannot be right.

Anna Priestly, from NTU continued the theme, adding that it was unacceptable for Nottingham to be a city where it was unsafe to walk home.

The “Ask” was for the prospective PCC’s to commit to creating a contact point for the Police in the Forest Rec and encourage use of it during Friday and Saturday nights, to work with Nottingham Citizens to address other concerns relating to the night time economy and to ensure that PSCO’s working in the area have the equipment and training needed to do their jobs safely.


Helen Black, from UNISON, addressing the assembly at the start of the event.


CitySafe Cabs
The assembly heard from Mohammed Ali, a cabbie who had been violently attacked by a group of men and had his cab - ie his livelihood - severely damaged. Sajid Mohammed, from Himmah, provided some statistics as background, pointing out that in just one week, Nottingham’s cab drivers suffered 1,900 incidents of abuse, 180 incidents of vehicle damage and 166 assaults.

The “Ask” was for the prospective PCC’s to commit to £80,000 match funding to introduce CCTV into an initial 400 taxis, and a further £10,000 to a charitable partner to administer the scheme.


Relationships
Lisa Davis, from the Bestwood Estate, described how the community there was suffering there because the relationship between the people and the Police had broken down. She described how, when the Police informed her that her brother had died in an accident they said that she should call the hospital before going in case there had been a communications glitch and the Police had got it wrong. She added that perhaps 95% of the residents in the area were law-abiding but the Police sometime made people feel it was the other way round.

The “Ask” was for the Police to be accessible and open to meeting when one was requested; to give access to the draft Police Crime Plan in January and meet to discuss it before it is submitted to the Crime Panel, attend the Annual Nottingham Citizens Assembly to make yourself accountable for the promises you make today; to identify a person whom complaints can be directed to and to spend a day with Nottingham Citizens in the next six months.


Dr Chandran, Mr Roberts, Mr Spencer and Mr Tipping.


The Responses

Dr Raj Chandran
Dr Chandran, who was the only one of the candidates who had not responded to Nottingham Citizens request for a meeting prior to the Assembly, said that he was supportive but that the cost of CCTV for cabs and providing appropriate kit to PSCO’s were items he could not commit to unless the auditors found a “pot of gold” that could be used to fund them. He added that he could not commit to PSCO’s on bus routes.

Tony Roberts
Mr Roberts committed to all of the “Asks”.

Malcolm Spencer
Mr Spencer committed to all of the “Asks”, wih the exception of the PSCO’s on bus routes as this was something that was not within his remit, as it was an operational decision for the Chief Constable. He added that he was supportive of this ask and would raise it in his first meeting with the Chief Constable. Regarding Stop and Search, Mr Spencer pointed out that a similar scheme in Leicester had resulted in a 50% reduction in BME Stop and Search.

Paddy Tipping
Mr Tipping committed to all of the “Asks”, although he also made the proviso that the PSCO’s on bus routes was an operational decision for the Chief Constable.

Some Final Comments
It is perhaps worth ending this post with two comments. The first is from Dean, a member of Nottingham’s Black community, who recalled being shot in the chest as an innocent victim of gun crime and finding that he was prevented from reaching the ambulance that came to his aid because the Police insisted on questioning him first. Dean commented that “experiences like that make moments like this worth every single second”.

And the second is a comment from Jesse Boot, who said that “Common hopes, common sympathies and common humanity bind us together; and whatever fosters this happy union is valuable”

For more information on Nottingham Citizens, contact :
George.Gabriel@nottinghamcitizens.org

Related Posts
Nottingham Hope and Homelessness Commission Report
Citizens UK and Himmah

3 comments:

  1. I think this is very interesting - the Asks as a serving police officer sound emminently doable in the main and would appear to be very sensible. Thanks for posting this initiative.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comments! Any tips of what citizens should be asking the PCC to ensure they are doing their job properly?

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  2. While I'm all for fair stop and searches, and I think its ridiculous that black people are stopped 9 nine times more than whites, I don't think Biship Paul's testimony (or perhaps the way it was dictated) was entirely relevant to the case.

    Colour of skin aside, the fact that he was wearing a hoodie, at night, fumbling under a car could seem pretty suspicious to anyone. And since he was covered head to toe with his face presumably under the car or faced away, how is it that they would have immediately judged him based on the colour of his skin?

    Doesn't really demonstrate what we are arguing against, namely racially biased stop & searches.

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