UNPOPULAR: Getting more black people into the police force has traditionally been dif cult, says Shaun Bailey
GOING DOWN to a diverse community and telling the young people to consider a career with the police isn’t the best conversation starter. Believe me, I’ve done it. Dozens, if not hundreds, of times. Being a police officer just isn’t on their radar.
This difficulty aside, getting more people from black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities into our police force is de nitely a conversation we need to have. A city as diverse as London should have a police force that mirrors the ethnic makeup of its population as closely as possible.
Our communities – and particularly our young people – need to trust that the police are on their side, and having someone from their community working with them would help. Accomplishing an integrated force, however, is proving a very tough nut to crack.
Although London is approximately 41 per cent non-white, only 14 per cent of the nearly 30,000-strong police force is BAME. That just won’t do for 2019. London can do much better.
It must do better if we’re going to solve the crime problem on our streets, a problem that impacts youth from BAME communities to a highly disproportionate degree. Enter the volunteer police cadets. Over the past three years, the police cadets have managed a representation that’s 55 per cent BAME.
In part, that’s because the volunteer police cadets set out to deliberately mirror their communities in each borough, using the latest research to engage youth at risk of crime and social exclusion.
By giving young people who are feeling vulnerable a sense of responsibility and pride in serving their community and by giving them a path to link up with organisations like the Prince’s Trust, horizons get broader and paths forward become clearer.
What was once a small world, gets much bigger. This is exactly what happened to me as a young man when I joined a similar cadets force: the army cadets.
And in return, the cadets and organisations like the Prince’s Trust get a street-level view of the pressures in London’s communities and how they’re impacting young people.
As my 20 plus years of youth and community work has taught me, there is no substitute for having those conversations. Theory is fine, but without putting it into practice it’s of limited use. The streets aren’t always academic.
Being a police cadet is good practice; it gets you stuck into the events happening in your community.
Whether it’s leafleting important local information, stewarding at local events or helping police crack down on illegal knife sales through ‘mystery shopper’ stings, being a police cadet makes you a positive to your community.
It gives you a stake in society. Sadly, that connection now gets withdrawn at the age of 21, without a bridge to continuing on with police service.
That’s because serving as a volunteer police cadet does not give you any standing in the process of becoming an actual constable.
That has to change. If young people from diverse communities, like the one I grew up in, are going to take an active interest in policing, we need to be able to pull that interest through to the Metropolitan Police. As Mayor, I will look for ways to make that happen.
There are over a thousand vacancies in the Metropolitan Police; filling them in a way that better represents London’s communities should be a priority. Doing this would make the police work better for all communities.
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