Who Are Operation Withdraw Consent?

Operation Withdraw Consent (OWC) is a non-partisan campaign which believes that the police are failing their duties to the majority of the public and the public should collectively withdraw consent to be policed.  Undoubtedly, there are many for whom the police in the UK “work”. However, this is not the case for all. For others, particularly the working class and minority populations, we give up rights and show deference to no end, like wider populations. Yet, we are still subjected to disproportionate, violent and unjust policing in our communities  –  while simultaneously being ignored as victims of crime. This must change.

To this day the government, Chief Police Officers and The College of Policing tell us that Policing in the UK is carried out with the consent of the public, OWC disagree. Policing by consent is a myth. The Public did not consent to the explicit targeting of people based solely on their race, gender or sexual orientation. They never consented to the enforcement of one set of laws for one section of society, and another set for the rich and powerful.

Despite organisations such as BLM, Sisters Uncut, and Reclaim Pride highlighting the systemic violence and discrimination faced by marginalised communities, at the hands of police forces across the UK, the police have made no efforts to change. Cases, such as that of Dalian Atkinson, Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman and Sarah Everard, have gained wide media coverage over the past 2 years and highlighted the systemic racism and misogyny at the heart of many police forces across the UK – not just the Met.

It feels like everyday we hear a new story of the police failing victims, profiling innocent people, sexually harassing women and sharing racist, homophobic and misogynistic messages in toxic police WhatsApp groups. All while overlooking the law breaking and corruption of those in parliament. The time has come for change and we are collectively calling on the public to withdraw consent from Policing:

“As a former Police Officer, I know that racism, misogyny and homophobia are entrenched in policing culture, the police know this too but they have no intention of changing. I withdraw my consent because we need community focussed solutions to crime, and minority communities deserve to be treated with respect”

Chantelle Lunt – Writer, BLM Activists and co-founder of the Kill The Bill coalition

“I’m a former metropolitan Police Officer and I would like to withdraw my consent. For years the metropolitan, and other police forces, have brutalised our communities with unfair and unjust stop and searches. The time for that to stop is now and, therefore, I’m putting my full weight and voice behind Operation Withdraw Consent.”

Ali Hassan Ali – Former Metropolitan Police Officer 

“I’m withdrawing my consent because women have been silenced by the police, abused by the police and murdered by the police. Institutional racism, sexism and homophobia plague the force who are meant to protect and serve the community. Enough is enough.” 

Patsy Stevenson Feminist Activist 

I believe in withdrawing consent from the police because I do not consent to the overpolicing of working class areas; institutional racism or institutional discrimination against the sex worker community; queer people; refugees; asylum seekers and travellers. We need to look at the way the criminal justice system only protects and serves the top 1% of society.”

Felix Mufti – Actor, Writer and Reclaim Pride Activist

In April 2022 the IOPC released a damning report highlighting the disproportionate, unjust and forceful use of Stop and Search against black and minority communities. The report highlighted stories such as that of an innocent black boy who was searched more than 60 times between the ages of 14 and 16. This cannot continue. The Police have been given opportunities to address their institutional failures since the 1981 Scarman report, following the Brixton riots. They have shown, again and again, that they are incapable of making the cultural changes needed within the force. A training package cannot fix the damage that almost two centuries of unfair policing has caused to vulnerable communities. Operation Withdraw Consent (and their stakeholders) believe that a new model of policing is needed to meet the needs of our communities.

OWC are campaigning for communities to be refunded to enable effective and responsive youth, education, social and health services that have been proven to reduce crime by meeting people’s basic needs. They want communities to be given the power to respond to the 80% of non-criminal incidents that the police respond to – as they believe that a community response, rooted in resolution and meeting individual needs, would have better outcomes.

Furthermore, they believe a community response would reduce the chance of an officer escalating incidents to an arrest or using force when force is not necessary. OWC want autonomous community police scrutiny panels established. These panels would serve community members who feel that they have been unfairly treated by the Police (as victims and suspects) and would have the power to independently investigate the Police, submit their findings publicly and to force Police and Crime Commissioners (political officials who control police funding and are said to be the voice of the people) to hold the police to account – as opposed to being accountable to chief constables, as many existing models suggest. 

OWC believe the Police service is broken, consent must be collectively withdrawn from this model and work to create systems, free of uniforms, that meet the needs of communities.

Follow them via social media for updates on how you can get involved in upcoming campaigns.

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