Male, stale and set to fail?

The shortlist to find a replacement for Scotland Yard’s new chief is down to the final two. They have a familiar look, some have described them as male, pale and stale. One thing is certain either Nick Ephgrave or Mark Rowley have their work cut out for them whoever is successful.

In April 2022 the Metropolitan Police Service could claim that whilst it had ‘99 problems – but a Dick ain’t one!’. This of course was in reference to the lack of confidence in Cressida Dick, and her subsequent exit as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. The calls for her departure could not be ignored following a number of scandals and what followed was the question of who would replace her. 

Undoubtedly the approximate six figure severance made a comfortable pillow to rest her Damehood on for all the damage she endured for her monumental failings. The Interim Commissioner position was filled by Sir Stephen House. you may remember him from such articles as “We will continue disproportionate Stop-and-Search.”

As the Chief Constable for Police Scotland at the time of the death in custody of 31 year old Sheku Bayou, who was restrained by police officers and later died whilst in custody. Probably the most horrific event on his watch, was the deaths of Lamara Bell and John Yuill, in a M9 car crash, they remained in the vehicle for 3 days, despite numerous calls to police.

The Met police has had it’s fair share of rapes, murders, voyeurism, sexual assaults, indecent exposures, Neo-Nazi membership and Class A drug use by senior officers.  The focus on race and racism, institutional or otherwise, would have been lost, if it wasn’t for a beacon being shone on all of these via social media.

Against this backdrop London’s Black communities are very concerned about who will be London’s next Commissioner. They have watched as the UK’s highest ranking non-white police officer, Neil Basu, had his job prospects blocked for challenging the Met on the topic of race in policing, simultaneously annoying the rank and file.

Jon Boucher was given the boot for commenting on race and racism in policing after the murder of George Floyd, the global anti-racist protests and the commitment needed for change. To be frank, it’s not looking great so far as a pattern begins to emerge with the selection process and what can be openly spoken about by prospective candidates.

The Black community have had to talk amongst themselves because, no one is asking us what we think. Policing wishes to appear to build on trust and confidence with Black, Asian and minority communities and they might even attend community meetings after Black Twitter has gripped them by their corporate-public-facing-singlet. But it always ends in a lame non apology: “there is still more work to be done”, which is obvious, especially when nothing has been done to progress matters of importance to the community in the first place.

So right now, It’s a head-to-head between Nick Ephgrave and Mark Rowley, shouts of nepotism would be correct in this instance.

Behind door number one there is Nick Ephgrave. He was the Chief Constable for Surrey also the Senior Investigating officer in the Damilola Taylor murder and was present at the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. The jury is still out on whether or not him having a front row seat to just two of the most impactful and devastating crimes to affect the Black community in its modern history, actually qualifies him for their endorsement. 

Next is Mark Rowley, ex MPS and an ex Chief Constable for Surrey, we haven’t heard him express an opinion about race but he has spoken about misogyny following Sarah Everard’s murder, because it only existed when she was murdered right? 

The archetypal victim: a white woman, died at the hands of a police officer and everyone is appalled. Whilst procedural violence in the name of operational policing is visited upon Black people disproportionately in every respect and for the longest time but: “there is still more work to be done.” We still aren’t victim-ing hard enough.

He has previously chaired the NPCC and if successful, could potentially work alongside Amanda Pearson, who was the Race Lead, who when questioned could not name a single instance of racism in policing – which is nice, because then she left to become the MPS lead for Professionalism. Jesus wept. He loudly and so did we at the possibility of old colleagues being reunited.

We wept also when we heard that Tasers were being given to volunteer Police officers against a backdrop of disproportionate violence and death of Black people by police in the name of public safety, we wept for Oladeji Adeyemi Omishore. Who chose the Thames instead of police custody, like many chased Black men before him. Who in death will be given more care and attention than when he was alive. Irony is a cruel mistress, it’s true.

The Race Action plan has been announced and is making all of the right noises, but so did the Scarman report in the 80s and the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and Macpherson’s recommendations in the 90s. White people need to have Black trauma quantified, with reports and statistics to write action plans and strategies, just to ignore them. That’s not cynicism, that is historically correct. No one is getting excited about the Race Action Plan, because a promise is comfort to a fool.

Whilst we may indeed ponder over who will be the next Met Commissioner, deep down, the truth is, we don’t hold much hope. 

We are being asked to look for silver linings in between Neo-Nazi police membership, murderers, rapists, life changing assaults, senior ranked class A drug users, necrophiles and countless videos of people being punched in the head by police. All of that mess running alongside an either horrendously ill-timed or very strategic, bespoke, and frightening recruitment dialogue – Just who are the Met trying to recruit?

It feels like whilst this is going on that Black communities are being asked to defend the indefensible – to turn a blind eye to what we are experiencing and what we are recording and posting to social media to be excited about who will get the job. We aren’t excited, not at all.

Should we then put our trust in the Black Police Networks whose tongues are loosened only on Social media and in such a way to protect, person, property, and pension? Where are the standard-bearers? The good ones are all gone, watching in disbelief at the bastardisation of their hard work and sacrifice, even they won’t drink the Kool-Aid anymore.

The question isn’t whether London’s next white male Police Commissioner will do anything for Black communities when they are appointed, it’s whether or not they will continue to sweep our concerns under the carpet with the same old dutty broom recycled by previous caretakers.

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