Lambeth Safer Neighbourhood Board - The End of Policing by Consent?
For over 30 years, senior police officers in Lambeth have met with local residents every month in a public forum to address key issues of concern. Anyone can attend and put their point or ask their question. That forum is run by the community, its agenda is set by the community and it is open to anyone who lives, works or studies in Lambeth. It elects its own leadership. It is called the Community Police Consultative Group for Lambeth. It has always been much more than a talking shop - it has been the proving ground for innovation in community and police relations in respect of issues such as domestic violence and rape, the treatment of mentally ill people in police cells, deaths in custody or stop and search.
Consultative Groups like Lambeth's didn't spring from nowhere. They were a key recommendation of the Scarman Report into the causes of the 1981 disturbances in Brixton. Lord Scarman identified the breakdown in communication between the community and the police as a contributory factor to the outbreak of violence. Unacknowledged racism in policing, with massively disproportional use of the 'SUS' law , had fostered a toxic relationship between the community and the police.
Back to the Past
Three decades of hard work by the community and by the police have transformed that relationship from those dark days. But all that is about to be put at risk. The Mayor of London is about to reshape police community consultation by replacing local Consultative Groups with Safer Neighbourhood Boards (SNBs) [link]. The Lambeth Borough Commander (Chief Supt Richard Wood) and Lambeth Council's Cabinet Member for Safer and Stronger Communities (Cllr Jack Hopkins) have set out proposals for what a Safer Neighbourhood Board in Lambeth should look like.
You can find their consultation document here.
Casting aside the experience of 30 years, these proposals are that:
* There will be no regular, open forum for Lambeth residents to have their say on policing. Instead, access to proceedings of the SNB, for ordinary residents, is to be heavily restricted.
* The SNB membership will not be open to all but only to representatives of approved organisations, overwhelmingly those sponsored by either Lambeth Council or the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS);
* The two organisations in Lambeth whose purpose is to monitor the proportionate use of police powers (the Independent Custody Visitors and the Stop and Search Monitoring Group ) are specifically to be excluded from membership of the SNB.
* There will be no way onto the SNB for ordinary Lambeth residents unless they are members of the approved Lambeth Council- or MPS-sponsored organisations;
* The SNB will only be able to address a limited range of policing priorities in line with the Mayor's priorities;
The SNB will have only a limited responsibility to publicise its work on behalf of Lambeth residents.
CPCG has suggested a number of ways in which the SNB can be structured to be more accessible, accountable and effective.
You can read our response here.
Have Your Shout!
You can do your bit to protect policing by consent in Lambeth by some or all of the following - it needn't take long:
1. Answer CPCG's on-line survey (just 4 questions in total)
2. Add your name to our petition.
3. Make your own response to Lambeth Council's consultation (note the deadline is now the 16th May). We'd be grateful if you were able to mail a copy of your response to firstname.lastname@example.org or to our postal address.
4. Keep the evening of Tuesday 3 June free when we shall be having a public meeting to check how this is developing.
For more information visit our SNB webpage and follow us on Twitter