Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe has spoken of his horror at the dreadful scenes which lead to the death of George Floyd during a police arrest in the USA, the impact it has on people in Warwickshire and the important questions that it raises about racism and equality.
Mr Seccombe said: “I share the shock and anger felt by all right-minded people over the death of George Floyd in the USA. The video of his arrest and the scenes that have followed make for extremely distressing viewing. Put simply, this was a death which should not have occurred and justice must be served. I want to echo the heartfelt sympathies that have been expressed from around the world to Mr Floyd’s family and loved ones and also to acknowledge the impact that incidents like this have on communities far and wide, including here in Warwickshire.
“In the UK, we police by consent. This means that our officers are drawn from the communities that they serve and must understand the requirements that our diverse populations have. Respect for all, regardless of skin colour or background, is a fundamental cornerstone of the ethics underpinning all policing activity in this country, as is the considerable training and scrutiny to which officers are subjected to on their use of force.
“Incidents like the death of Mr Floyd do however give rise to fundamental questions about how we, as a society, value the lives of those around us and whether all that can be done to improve matters is being done. It causes us to acknowledge that racism and inequality continue to persist, regardless of the progress that has been made in recent times. Imbalances and biases remain in our systems and institutions which need to be understood and addressed if we are to achieve a fair society for all.
“As Police and Crime Commissioner, part of my role is to ensure that people’s voices are both heard and represented here in Warwickshire. I want to use my position to drive forward progress on getting equal access to opportunity, regardless of ethnicity or background. I’ve previously engaged with community representatives to explore the issues which discourage or prevent many Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) from becoming positively engaged with policing and I remain keen to hear people’s experiences across the whole of the criminal justice system in the county.
“I have an important role in holding the police to account and providing independent scrutiny on areas of practice that cause community concern. It’s important that the public have confidence in policing and so I have regularly asked questions around stop and search and over the use of force, to seek reassurance that it is being carried out in a way that is both appropriate and proportionate. I will continue to do this as, advocating the concerns that are raised with me as it is clear that, while there has been positive progress, more still needs to be done to ensure all communities are confident in the policing response.
“Building relationships within communities is fundamentally important to this and I want to ensure that Warwickshire Police is truly representative of all those it serves. Although we do have officers and staff from a diverse range of backgrounds, we need to increase their numbers further. There is an opportunity to improve representation as we recruit more police officers and police staff in the coming years and the force’s new Positive Action programme marks an important step in achieving that. It has been designed to identify, understand and remove the barriers which have historically discouraged greater participation in policing from BAME communities, while also putting in place the support needed to retain people once they join the organisation to ensure they can progress and have fulfilling careers.
“Across the wider community safety landscape, my office will be undertaking a needs assessment for BAME victims of crime, so that we can truly ensure that the services that are there to support them are properly meeting their needs and being accessed equally. I am also considering what further level of independent support and research could be commissioned to better enable me to hold to account and, where necessary, challenge agencies to help formulate lasting solutions that improve the lives of all.
“These issues are societal as well as institutional and so change will not be easy or instant. However, I do want to ensure that through a collective effort, we create a safer and more secure Warwickshire for all of our communities and that is something I will continue to work hard for.”