The murder of George Floyd by police officers in the US sparked protests around the world and has shone a light on racism here in the UK. Since the event, you will have probably heard individual accounts of racism, which for many black and ethnic minority people is a common experience: from police harassment to racist slurs. It is important we are having these conversations; they are uncomfortable but long-overdue conversations that need to be had in this country. Here in Manchester, such recent accounts of over-policing include a black man being tasered in front of his young child and a black man being arrested during lockdown for moving a plant for his mother.
The discourse in the UK has started to touch upon how we think about and teach our past, how BAME communities are over-policed and about systemic racism. It is good and right that we are having these complicated discussions now, but it is crucial that these talks are not simply replaced with a new news cycle and meaningful change is left undone. What does that mean at a local level? Well, lots. Seeing racism purely as a national issue is part of the problem. In England less than 5% of councillors are BAME, despite making up around 14% of the population. Councils must encourage and enable people of all backgrounds to stand for election at council level. Police powers must be scrutinised and the institutionalised racism in the police tackled at a local level.
Andy Burnham has proposed to roll-out school-based police officers (SBPOs) in schools across Greater Manchester. The proposals are unlikely to impact on reducing youth violence. According to the British Medical Journal, under 16s are at highest risk from violent crime between the hours of 4pm-6pm, outside school hours, and so SBPOs are unlikely to act as an effective deterrent. This sort of change compromises the safe, nurturing environment a school should be. It has a disproportionately negative effect on BAME pupils, who are more likely to be targeted, and on working class communities. SBPOs are more likely to be placed in schools with a higher intake of pupils from working-class communities which increases stigma and negatively impacts the prospects of pupils. I will continue to oppose policies that harm BAME and working class communities at every level. I hope here in Trafford we can keep our schools police-free.
If you have concerns or would like to discuss this more, please contact Stretford & Urmston Liberal Democrats via email email@example.com: 2nd Jul 2020