LONDON: Police in the British capital are calling on Muslims to join the service to increase diversity in an effort to regain public trust and confidence amid damning reports of racism in the force.
“The overall aim is to have a more representative police service in line with the diverse nature of London,” Chief Superintendent Jeff Boothe told Arab News.
Boothe, who is also head of the Metropolitan Police Outreach Recruitment program and the program director for the London Race Action Plan, was speaking on the sidelines of an iftar event during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan that was attended by community and faith leaders and government representatives.
He said the aim of the event, which was held at New Scotland Yard in collaboration with Algebra Consulting, a company focused on serving economic and cultural sectors within the Muslim Community in London, was to encourage more people from diverse backgrounds to consider a career in policing to bring about change.
Boothe said his outreach role is about trying to get more women and people from underrepresented groups to ensure the Met is able to provide a service to all sections of the community.
“My team works across the 32 London boroughs, looking to engage with partners and looking to inform people of the opportunities to join the Metropolitan Police Service as…we need to be more representative in terms of gender and ethnicity,” he added.
The London Race Action Plan, Boothe said, focuses on recruitment and people’s progression within the organization to give them opportunities to get to the highest levels and become strategic influencers.
It also aims to address police officers using their powers disproportionately against any section of the community, achieve more community engagement and ensure that victims of crimes are given the right level of service.
“We need to be reaching out to as many different minority media outlets so that they can spread the word so others will be aware of it,” he said. “All too often in the past, we’ve been going to traditional media, which doesn’t have the (same) range.”
The event follows a government report investigating the Met’s culture and standards of behavior, which found severe institutional failings across the organization that will require radical reform to resolve.
Public trust in the police has fallen from a high point of 89 percent in 2016 to 66 percent in 2022, while public confidence in the Met has fallen from 70 percent in 2016 and 2017 to 45 percent in 2022, the report issued on March 7 said.
People from Black and mixed ethnic groups have lower trust and confidence, scoring 10 to 20 percent lower than average on trust and 5 to 10 percent lower on confidence, it said, adding: “Met officers are 82 percent White and 71 percent male, and the majority do not live in the city.”
Detective Sgt. Zak Hullemuth, chair and vice president of the National Association of Muslim Police, said the association supports Muslims coming into the Met and guides them on how to be part of “the family” while still practicing their religion.
Hullemuth said the association tries to ensure that every police station has a prayer room equipped with all the facilities and accommodates those fasting during the Muslim holy month.
“Even when we detain or arrest someone, we give them the opportunity to pray, a prayer mat, and if it’s in Ramadan, we give them the opportunity to fast,” he said.
“We’ve got a big police family. We’ve got about 1,500 Muslim police officers in just the Met in London, so we promote that quite a lot,” he added.
Hullemuth explained that London’s diverse community constitutes about 46.6 percent, and Muslims make up 15 percent of that.
“It’s important to have a role in the Met so that you can serve your community as well,” he said.
Turning to the criticism, he said: “We have to acknowledge we have got some problems, but at the same time, the fact that we are talking about it, that’s a good sign, and to resolve the problems with the Met and the trust and confidence, you need to be in it to change it.”
Grace Bernard-Broadreck, outreach team lead for the west area at the Met, said by working with Algebra Consulting, one of their 32 community outreach fund partners, they are trying to build community trust and confidence where it is low, access Muslim community areas, and work with faith and key community leaders.
“We need to have some difficult discussions because we know that there are issues, and that’s where when we work for the community, they’re able to hold us accountable in terms of where we could improve as an organization,” she said.
“We are recruiting, we’re looking for more women to join the organization, we’re also looking for people from underrepresented groups so that we can have people that are representative of London,” Bernard-Broadreck added.
Claire Maynard, outreach lead for the central-east basic command unit at the Metropolitan Police, said attendees at the iftar expressed “an overwhelming sense of gratitude” that the Met “opened their doors” and demonstrated that they “can share a space together and recognize the great opportunity that this faith festival Ramadan brings.”
She added: “London is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and I think different faiths, cultures, and languages bring so much diversity and understanding and we can only learn from that and have a more cohesive society.”
Waleed Jahangir, director of Algebra Consulting, stressed the importance of community outreach and engagement with the police to change the negativity and drive diversity.
“We won’t deny it, every organization has issues, and the Metropolitan Police also has its fair share,” he said.
“We’ve been working very closely with the Metropolitan Police now for the last six months in engaging the Muslim community, and so far, we’ve had some great feedback from the community,” added Jahangir. “However, together we can make a change.”