Parts of a controversial Police Bill could undermine trust in forces and “exacerbate” serious violence, a number of former police chiefs have warned this morning.
The group of ex-police leaders, senior officers and advisers has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel to express their concerns about some of the proposals contained in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which the House of Lords will continue to consider today.
The Bill contains a raft of measures aimed at overhauling the criminal justice system as part of the Government’s efforts to make the streets safer.
The proposals prompted widespread protests earlier this year, with some claiming the Bill hand the authorities too much power to prevent peaceful demonstrations.
Signatories – including Lord Paddick, former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and Leroy Logan, the former Met superintendent who was the founding member and first chairman of the National Black Police Association – have asked Patel to reconsider measures in the Bill which could “undermine the work police colleagues are doing to prevent and reduce serious violence, and put already marginalised communities at further risk of harm”.
“As experts on police use of force, racial profiling, and stop and search, we believe that this Bill has dangerous implications for the fight against serious violence, an issue that demands police work in service to, not against, the communities facing its harms,” the letter said.
The group warns placing a legal duty on police and public bodies like councils, criminal justice bodies, health and fire services to tackle serious violence and share intelligence and data could “negatively affect relationships” between the police and the public, as well as their counterparts in other authorities.
“Ultimately, these proposals will hit marginalised groups the hardest, disproportionately impacting Black men and communities of colour with whom the police need to rebuild trust,” according to the letter.
“The duty may actually exacerbate people’s experiences of alienation, exclusion, and isolation – some of the root causes of serious violence.”
On proposed Serious Violence Reduction Orders – intended to make it easier to stop and search those who have previously been convicted of carrying a knife – the letter said: “When stop and search powers are misused, they can be counterproductive, a waste of time and resources, and most importantly, damage relationships between the police and the public”, adding that provisions for a “suspicionless stop and search power” would “roll back some of the progress that has been made in trying to address the issue of racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system”.
Jun Pang, police and campaigns officer at human rights group Liberty, claimed there was a growing “chorus of opposition” to the “oppressive” legislation, adding: “The new police powers the Bill creates will lead to harassment and oppressive monitoring of young people, working class people and people of colour – especially black people.
“Expanding existing measures like stop and search will funnel more people into the criminal punishment system and further divide communities. The Bill threatens the way of life of Gypsy and Traveller Communities and silences those who want to speak out against injustice.”
Home Office response
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The PCSC Bill will make our country and streets safer by equipping the police with the powers and tools they need.
“No one should be targeted because of their race. We must, however, acknowledge the fact that people from some ethnic minority groups are disproportionately more likely to be victims of serious violence, such as knife crime.
“To help in this fight we are introducing Serious Violence Reduction Orders so that convicted offenders are steered away from persistently carrying a knife or an offensive weapon.”