Thursday, May 18, 2006

State of London – Policing

This is my third posting on the Mayor's State of London Debate.

The final session I attended was on policing.

In the morning, the Mayor had gone on and on about the importance of having loads of police officers on the street, and how this improved people’s perception of the safety of London’s streets.

Being a person of African origin, the sight of police officers walking around in groups of three or four, wearing body armour, does nothing to improve my perception of safety.

In addition, the fact that someone was stabbed to death just a few metres from my front door last year, in broad daylight, does nothing for my perception of the safety of my own neighbourhood. But I digress.

For the session on policing, Lee Jasper, being the Mayor’s policing expert, headed the panel.

The other two panel members went on and on about the Safer Neighbourhoods teams and how important they were blah blah blah.

Many people in the audience wanted to ask questions or raise points, and Lee Jasper made a great show of taking note of everyone who had his or her hand up. However, I still never got to ask my question. Like me, many people who did manage to speak had had personal experiences of inadequate or inappropriate policing.

Last October, Black History Month, I was waiting at a bus stop when a white man came up to me and started racially abusing me, swearing at me, saying there were too many of us in this country, etc., etc. I was wearing African dress at the time, which may have upset him for some reason.

This abuse went on for some time, as the man worked himself up more and more. Being disabled, and laden with heavy shopping, I did not feel able or willing to walk away. More and more people, Black and white, turned up to the bus stop but this man, who appeared drunk, continued his abuse.

Eventually, several buses arrived. None of them were buses I needed, but I got on one, went one stop to where I knew there were call boxes, and called the police. They refused to come, but they kept assuring me that they 'take this matter very seriously'. They insisted that the abuser had ‘probably left’, and made a pointless visit to my home, which was nowhere near the crime scene, an hour and a half later.

Someone rang me several times over the course of the next few days in order to make sure I was ‘alright’, and to advise me that none of the many CCTV cameras at the scene had any film in them, so there was no record of the crime. But they still kept assuring me that they 'take this kind of thing very seriously'.

As I said, I was not given an opportunity to raise this issue during the session. However, I shall raise it with the Mayor’s office and post if I receive any kind of sensible response.

See also: State of London Debate.

No comments: