- Category: Fighting Oppression
- Published on Friday, 14 February 2014
- Written by Steven Ellis
On Tuesday 11 February Stephen Greenhalgh (deputy London mayor for policing), Lambeth borough commander Matt Bell, and one of the Met police assistant commissioners, came to Lambeth Town Hall to host a ‘consultation’ meeting on confidence in the police. Their presentation centred on increasing numbers of police, improving their visibility and focusing on ‘key crimes’.
Unsurprisingly, however, confidence in the police is influenced not just by how many of them there are but by what they actually do. To get this message across Lambeth Left Unity had organised a protest outside, in conjunction with other groups including Brixton Black Revolutionary Socialists, Brixton Rebels and the London Campaign against Police and State Violence, encouraging those angry with the behaviour of the police to make their voices heard inside the meeting as well.
At the protest, attended by 30-40 people, Simon Hardy from Lambeth Left Unity spoke about the violence of the police, the deaths at their hands, and the absence of officers being held to account. People were also angry about the crackdown on protest, the plans to introduce water cannons, and the wider corruption of the police (these were the issues presented on the call out for the meeting and in a petition signed by many who attended).
Inside the meeting, contributions from the floor started with Lambeth’s head of custody visitors speaking passionately about how her team has been reduced from 36 staff to nine and how she is now only allowed to visit Brixton police station once a week. This has meant that there is dramatically reduced scrutiny of what actually happens in custody cells. Others asked about the record of the police in cases such as those of Stephen Lawrence and Mark Duggan, pointing out that there had been nothing in the presentation about racism, and that the panel was all white. A man spoke of his own experience of fearing for his life while being ‘hard stopped’ by the Met.
The panel had no answers to these questions and the more they dodged, the more the rage in the audience grew. The leader of Lambeth council, Lib Peck, chairing, struggled to keep order and repeated the audience’s questions to the panel members in vain. The meeting closed with the deputy mayor unable to make his closing remarks, as instead a young woman in the audience was pointing out that the only time young people ‘engage’ with the police is when they are killed in custody.