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Met officers to be mentored by BAME Westminster council staff


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Senior officers from the Central West BCU have signed up to a program run by Westminster City Council which offers BAME council staff the opportunity to mentor senior officers.


Met Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu is endorsing the scheme

Date - 6th October 2020
By - Chloe Livadeas

The scheme was originally launched in-house by the council in 2019. Chief Superintendent Helen Harper, the BCU commander, has now joined with council leaders to pilot the initiative in the Met.

The Police and Local Authority Mentoring Scheme puts junior BAME councillors with officers of supervisory ranks to share their experiences of community policing, both personal and professional.

A spokesperson for the force said: “The aim is to increase understanding of community policing in London both from a recipient of this service (professional and personal) and from the perspective of one responsible for delivering.”

Eleven officers have signed up to the scheme and have already been matched with members of the council. They have the option to meet up face-to-face or speak virtually depending on individual circumstances.

At a virtual launch of the scheme last Wednesday (30 September) Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu made a speech to colleagues and members of the council.

He said “I’m speaking to you as the most senior officer of colour in the country”, and that he got where he was by the help of “maybe thousands” of officers and staff.

“So the more people can come together, and discuss and put their differences aside, in a safe psychological environment, to help each other understand where each other are coming from the better,” he said.

AC Basu went on to say: “For those members of the council who want to give us their life experience, how fantastic. Please listen to the life experience of the police officers you’ll be dealing with as well. We do an extraordinarily hard job, it has an extraordinary physical and emotional toll on us.

“And sometimes it doesn’t make us the nicest of company but please listen to some of that experience as well. You might understand a little bit of where we’re coming from.”

The mentoring scheme is a six month pilot which will be followed by an evaluation. There is a view to expand it to include junior BAME officers as mentors in the future.

C/Supt. Harper, said: “We already work really closely with our colleagues at the council to police in partnership and do everything possible to reduce crime, tackle anti-social behaviour and deal with what matters most to both local residents and the wider communities we serve. 

“The communities we look after across Westminster are incredibly diverse; this scheme will offer us the opportunity to build on our relationships with partners, enable us to see our policing through the perspective of others and hopefully open up new pathways to address concerns and any issues that come to light. We get to see our policing and leadership through another lens, it’s a really exciting project.

“Initially, eight of my officers will be assigned individual mentors and I hope that we will be able to learn from each other. The ability to listen and evolve is at the heart of local policing.” 

Cllr Rachael Robathan, Leader of Westminster City Council, said: “Reverse mentoring schemes like this have worked really well at the council allowing us to identify and address any concerns around diversity, inclusion, and discrimination. It’s heartening that our police are supporting such a ground-breaking project.

“Our vibrant and diverse communities makes Westminster the great city it is. We hope this and other similar initiatives will strengthen relationships between local police officers and our community.”

AC Basu told delegates and mentors he understood “exactly what racism and prejudice feel like”.

He described how when he joined the police almost every crime scene he went to, even as he became by far the most senior officer on scene, members of the public would always turn to the white officer to speak.

AC Basu also spoke about more personal experiences of racism, and described the “deep, personal abuse” he experiences as a child and recounted how on his first day at high school he was badly beaten up and put into a locker.

He said: “I knew moving to London that I would spend 20 minutes longer getting served at any bar in London. I’d leave a late turn and meet friends in the pub after work and I’d have to walk through a number of people asking me whether I was the taxi driver as I turned up at the pub.”

He finished by saying: “I wish you the very best of luck, I hope it succeeds, it deserves to. I think this is something we would want to see across the Metropolitan police, and in fact nationally across policing.”

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What happened to evidence based poliing? Since when did lived experience trump science? 

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