In light of the recent deaths of black men, who lost their lives in contact with the police, the BME communities are left with distrust in the justice system in the UK. Consequently, all three men were restrained by officers, taken to a hospital, and later on died from related injuries. Furthermore, none of the officers relating to the recent incidents have been suspended . According to a report by the Institute of Race Relations, more than 500 black and ethnic minority individuals have lost their lives under suspicious circumstances in state detention in the UK since 1990. The report concludes that family and community campaigns are crucial in bringing on any institutional and procedural changes.
The progress in race equality is facing obstacles as a result of the current economic, political and policy environment. In addition, the recent incidents increase the lack of trust and confidence in partnerships between the communities and the police. However, in order to achieve better outcomes for BME offenders and victims, a reciprocal relationship based on trust and co-operation between the communities and the law enforcement is fundamental. A study conducted in the Netherlands goes to show – unsurprisingly - that individuals are more likely to comply with the law when they feel treated fairly and with respect by law enforcers. Respectively, the community as a whole must have respect for the rule of law; therefore, the key institutions in the justice system must enjoy public transparency and legitimacy.
The role of communities is perhaps the most important factor in improving the relationship between the BME communities and the police. Thus, it is necessary that the community represents the individuals who live in them by investing in social integration, trust and social belonging. According to T. Gavrielides and S. Blake, a sense of community inclusion correlates with social integration. Furthermore, a positive engagement in civic life and social institutions encourages young people to move away from crime. As a result, voluntary and community sector are fundamental actors in rebuilding the confidence in the police. This shared responsibility and accountability between the communities, the third sector and the police is a key in laying foundations for successful cooperation.
In order to achieve a dialogue in restoring the community trust in law enforcement in the UK, we need community organisations, such as Y-stop, who provide useful tools of interaction with the police. Y-Stop is a collaboration between charities, lawyers, young people, youth workers, community and media organisations who aim to grasp the overall experiences of young people with the police and how to improve them. They concluded that encounters with the police can be disempowering and frustrating. On a meso-level, these experiences have a serious impact on the community by increasing the lack of trust and confidence in the police. By providing young people with the necessary tools to interact with the police and by raising awareness amongst communities, organisations, such as Y-Stop, can restore the relationship between the BME communities and the law enforcement.
A reciprocal relationship based on trust and cooperation between the communities and the law enforcement is fundamental in restoring the BME communities’ confidence in the police in the UK. Consequently, the best solutions for social justice problems stem from those affected by them. Involving individuals in decision-making and treating everyone with dignity and respect is more far-reaching and productive than viewing them as risks or simply managing them. After all, the justice system was set up to guarantee fair and equal outcomes for all regardless of their background and ethnicity.
By Maija (Justice Intern) and Bruno (Justice Projects Coordinator).
(Original image can be accessed here)