We send our solidarity and share the anger of those in the United States of America appalled by the death of George Floyd, a 46 year old father, killed by a Minneapolis police officer on 25 May. The use of force against protesters goes against one of the fundamentals of democracy, the right to protest. These protests have once again shined a light on the ingrained injustices in America.
However, these injustices are not an ‘American problem’. In the UK black people face systemic and institutional racism and we see our communities disproportionately targeted and impacted by the criminal justice system. In 2019 black people were more than three times likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people in Lewisham. Racial inequalities are not just found in the criminal justice system, but across all areas of life in the UK from education, housing and health. COVID-19 has highlighted the huge disparity in health outcomes for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups with black men almost four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white men. These gross injustices must be addressed by the Government.
The role of the police is to keep our communities safe and they have continued to work on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank them for their service particularly during these difficult times. However, we must address that there is deep concern and anger over the apparent excessive force used by officers in recent weeks, some of which have been captured on video and widely shared on social media.
In response to these instances we called an urgent meeting with the police, which was attended by Lewisham, Greenwich & Bexley Basic Command Unit, the new Borough Commander and Deputy Borough Commander, representatives from the Territorial Support Group (TSG), the Safer Neighbourhood Teams, and Police Discipline. As well as individual cases we raised on behalf of our constituents, we discussed with the police a wide range of issues including the excessive use of force in stop and search and arrests, racial profiling and the disproportionality in the use of stop and search, the use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), and engaging people with dignity and respect. The Metropolitan Police confirmed that the individual cases are being investigated through the relevant bodies including the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). We do not want to pre-judge the outcomes of these investigations but we will be following them closely and have asked for regular updates on these cases, as well as any changes arising from them.
We encourage anyone who has concerns over how they have been treated by the police or on someone else’s behalf to make a complaint to the IOPC. Please also share any concerns with us, or your local MP and councillors. We will continue to meet with the police and hold them to account. Equally, we will continue to work positively with the police as it is critical that we work together to keep our communities safe.
Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham
Cllr Brenda Dacres, Cabinet Member for Safer Communities
Cllr Juliet Campbell, Chair, Safer & Stronger Communities Select Committee
Janet Daby MP, Lewisham East
Vicky Foxcroft MP, Lewisham Deptford
Ellie Reeves MP, Lewisham West & Penge
Len Duvall AM, Lewisham & Greenwich