Following the fatal shootings in the USA of black people in highly questionable circumstances by the Police and with the development of the Black Lives Matter movement, here in the UK.
West Midlands Police Firearms Unit opened its doors to members of the African/Caribbean Community in order to commence what is envisaged as greater transparency of how they actual operate in order to develop greater trust and confidence and also to counter fears of the development of issues with the Black Community here in the UK.
It was noted that last year in the UK there were 3 fatal Police shootings, in comparison to in excess of 1000 in the USA.
It is noteworthy that none of these were in the West Midlands which has not had a fatal shooting since 1996.
The decision making process to deploy armed response or a tactical unit was made clear, which ultimately rests at command level, which is a rigid process.
The training and aptitude of armed officer’s was also explained, especially, in light of the increase in Armed Officer’s which signified the need for more trainers and supervisors.
Officers are not recruited, they actually volunteer to join the Armed unit, however, they do go through a rigid recruitment process and once on the course, they do need to pass every stage.
There were some serious issues raised with regard to the historic relationship between the Police and the African/Caribbean Community, which the Police must appreciate, particularly surrounding matters of disproportionality.
In my view whilst welcoming the openness and willingness to share, it is important that there is an appreciation that ultimately trust and confidence can only be built upon by addressing the issues that has been in existence for a long time now, which re-ocurr, whilst ensuring strategies are in place to ensure the same transparency is in place when things do not go to plan, instead of the continual issue of closing ranks and questionable treatment of people when they wish to complain.
Clearly, this is a stepping stone and indeed experiencing through role play the pressures armed officer’s will face when responding is important, however, the anxieties and perception, be it right or wrong by members of the African/Caribbean Community are as equally important.
One thing that was welcomed, was the Head of the Unit being prepared for two-way dialogue and demonstrating a willingness to deal with criticism on a no nonsense basis, which can only be described as helpful when dealing with the Black Community, especially with the factors that are at play in the USA, will impact upon relationships here, as one thing must be remembered, some members of the public see the police as Police, no matter which geographical area they cover.
Finally, they are willing to do this again and as an Activist I would urge West Midlands Police to let this transparency continue in all area’s particularly when things go wrong, as this can make a difference if there is commitment from all.
9th August 2016