Former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metroplolitan police, and current contender to become the Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London, Brian Paddick has written for The Independent on the need for our law-enforcers to re-earn the trust of the capital’s balck community. Recounting his own experiences of policing London on the front-line over the decades, Brian writes:
I was a sergeant on the streets during the 1981 Brixton riots. Together with 10 officers hiding behind our plastic shields, we became the focus for community hatred, pelted with bricks and broken paving slabs. The police and the community tried to rebuild some kind of relationship – it took a long time. Twenty years later I became the police commander there. After 15 months, when I was moved out of Brixton, there were protests – it had been quite a turnaround from 1981. Do the people of Tottenham have to wait 20 years for the weekend’s scars to heal?
Not if the police take action now to rebuild the burning bridges. In the aftermath of the Brixton riots, as we patrolled Railton Road and chased suspected criminals into the illegal gambling dens, those suspected of mugging were thrown back out into our arms, but the older black men guarding the doors would protect those we thought might have cannabis on them. They thought we were wasting our time policing “weed”. Two decades later, it was clear from discussions with local community leaders that it was crack cocaine and heroin that were ruining young people’s lives at that time, not cannabis, and that is what that community wanted its police to concentrate on.
The motivation for getting my officers to concentrate on hard drugs rather than cannabis was about showing that I was their police chief who was listening to them and that I was prepared to act on what they told me.