LONDON: London’s Metropolitan Police opened its doors to British Muslims for Eid Al-Adha celebrations in its latest effort to restore staggeringly low rates of public trust among ethnic communities in the capital.
The reception in London on Tuesday was held at New Scotland Yard, the Met’s headquarters, in collaboration with the British Islamic Trade Association and Algebra Consulting, a company focused on serving the Muslim community in the capital. The event was attended by community leaders and government representatives.
It was the second community outreach event in recent months following the release of a government report which labeled the Met as institutionally racist.
According to the report in March, London is more diverse than other UK cities in terms of nationalities, ethnic and faith groups. In contrast, Met officers are 82 percent white and 71 percent male, and the majority do not live in the city they police.
The event aimed to encourage more people from diverse backgrounds to consider a career in policing, as speakers highlighted the importance of representation.
Sobia Seher, a British-Pakistani emergency response officer who wears the hijab, shared her experiences on the importance of representation in fostering better cultural awareness in frontline policing.
“Being able to speak two different languages, Urdu and Punjabi, I’m able to put my victims at ease when dealing with a case in their native language,” Seher told Arab News.
One in five people living in London speak a main language other than English.
Seher said that her ability to speak several languages also improves work efficiency, as it saves time having to contact translators.
Noting her positive experience in her three years working with the Met, she added: “I’m here to break down barriers, misconceptions and encourage all women from the Muslim community to join frontline policing.”
Public trust in the Met has fallen from 89 percent in 2016 to 66 percent in March 2022, with the figures being 10-20 percent lower among Black and mixed ethnic groups.
The 346-page government report revealed a bullying culture and discrimination “baked into the system.” It cited a number of cases where minority ethnic officers were mistreated by colleagues, with one Muslim officer reporting having bacon stuffed in his boots.
Detective Sgt. Zak Hullemuth, chair and vice president of the National Association of Muslim Police, told Arab News that positive community engagement with police, such as the Tuesday event, breaks down prejudices while “showcasing what the police are really about.
“With 30 years of experience with the Met, I’m here today and I look forward to a future career over the next few years. It’s certainly not a career I’d shy away from and I would like to encourage people to come and have a look,” he added.
According to the report, the appointment of a new commissioner and deputy commissioner with a pledge to reform in September 2022 signaled a positive start for the £4 billion ($5.1 billion) public institution.
However, it noted that “deep-seated cultures need to be tackled in order for change to be sustained.”
Waleed Jahangir, director of Algebra Consulting, told Arab News: “The Metropolitan police have had some challenges in the past but the great thing is that they actually recognize these challenges and they recognize the diversity issues within the police force, and this is why they’re reaching out to community partners such as ourselves.”
He said that the next step in Algebra Consulting’s campaign is educating the police on how to deal with Muslim communities in the capital.