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A new independent panel is being created to help Gloucestershire Constabulary address issues of racial inequality.
The Community Legitimacy Panel will consist of members of the county’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. It will look at areas such as recruitment and promotion, as well as helping the Constabulary develop policies around stop and search and the use of force.
It has been set up by Sandra Samuel, Better Together manager, who oversees the Constabulary’s diversity, equality and inclusion programme.
The panel held a launch meeting at the Force’s headquarters in Waterwells on Tuesday (21 July). Around 20 people from ethnically diverse communities attended, alongside Chief Constable Rod Hansen and Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl.
Teddy Burton, who is acting as the interim chairman of the panel, said there was still much work which needed to be done.
He said: “We cannot shout from the sidelines. We have to change the situation from within.
“It’s not only about pulling down statues. What I want to see is the dismantling of the system which has made it acceptable for those statues to be erected in the first place.
“People are able to hide behind the term 'institutional racism' because it means that a single person is never held accountable for an organisation’s or their individual actions.
“We must seize this moment, not just to blow off steam but to bring about the institutional changes which are needed.
“We need to be constantly demanding that we are treated better – not because we claim we are better than any other community, but because we see the way our white brothers and sisters are treated and we should be treated in the same way.”
He added that he had already met Mr Hansen to talk about some of the issues and had been encouraged by his response.
Mr Burton said: “The Chief’s response has been commendable. When people at the top are willing to meet us halfway, we need to seize the moment so that these changes become part of the DNA of the organisation.
While acknowledging that there may well be a diversity of views among the Black community about the most appropriate way to address concerns about policing, he stated that “what we all share is the desire for things to get better”.
Sandra Samuel, Better Together manager said: “Ethnically diverse communities will always be in the minority if we don’t have a voice and we don’t hold people accountable for their actions.
“This is not about a quick fix. In order to make a change, we need to gain people’s trust. We want everybody to be treated as humans and to bring some humanity to some of the ways people behave.”
Mr Surl said he had been deeply affected after seeing the footage of George Floyd.
He added: “My question is how do we change people’s attitudes to this? I have not experienced what it has been like for you, but I can try to see life through the eyes of black person.
“I think both the Chief and I acknowledge that things are not how they should be and we also acknowledge that we cannot fix it ourselves without your help.
“I hope you see in us a willingness to change things, not just because it is in the news but because they must change.”
In order to make sure the panel’s views are heard at the highest level, Assistant Chief Constable Rhiannon Kirk will be representing the Constabulary at panel meetings.
She said: “I am not here to defend our actions or to explain why something might have happened in a certain way.
“My role in this group is to just listen and to hear what is being said about those areas where we need to change.”
Chief Constable Rod Hansen has also previously talked about the work that is ongoing to improve recruitment into the Constabulary from minority communities.
He said: “This panel is a big step forward but it is only one part of what we are doing as part of Better Together.
“We recognise representation from all our diverse communities is one of the most significant factors in improving trust and our plan is starting to address this. We are now beginning to see an increase in recruits coming from our diverse communities but we know there is far more to do.”
More information on the new panel and details on how to join can be found here: www.gloucestershire.police.uk/police-forces/gloucestershire-constabulary/areas/gloucestershire/about-us/about-us/BAME-Community-Legitimacy-Panel/?msclkid=f8cb3d91c08e11eca45f3859ba2d2d09