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Stop Traumatising Our People

Updated: May 8


On Monday 22nd April, West Midlands Police [WMP] and citizens of Birmingham came together to commemorate the life of Stephen Lawrence. It was 31 years to the day since he was brutally murdered in South East London at the age of 18. I was present during this evening of deep thought, powerful words, palpable sadness and lasting reflection. It was beautifully orchestrated by Police Inspector Michelle Ugwueze and Alethea Fuller, Deputy Chief Executive of the WMP Crime Commissioner.


West Midlands Police facilitated the event to reflect on Stephen's legacy and how it drives their commitment to improve the way they work with Black communities. The data presented to illustrate the targets and ambitions for the service was disappointing, reflecting the view of the population of Birmingham about WMP's relationship with the public. The evening's agenda included presentations and discussions with the Police Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster and members of the community to look at the impact of WMP's efforts so far and to focus what further action must be taken in the future. 


Chief Inspector Chris Grandison, Chair of West Midlands Police's Black and Asian Police Association [BAPA], writes: "We continue to remember Stephen Lawrence, not only as a symbol of injustice but as a catalyst for change. On this Stephen Lawrence Day, BAPA reaffirms our commitment to upholding justice and ensuring an anti-racist police service." 


Karen Geddes, the Mission Support Superintendent and Chair of BAPA, in her last year as a police officer writes: "My journey in policing has not always been smooth running. I have remained a minority in policing for all of my twenty-nine years’ service and as I enter the final leg, I find myself still a minority and one of only thirty-four black female officers in West Midlands Police. Policing needs to reflect the community it serves and Police now are a shining light in striving to recruit and promote diverse leaders in policing."


Karen Geddes


Assistant Chief Constable Mike O’Hara, the Executive lead for the Police Race Action Plan [PRAP] The Police Race Action Plan (npcc.police.uk) says: "Policing has made great strides since the tragic murder of Stephen, however we all know that we have a long way to go to ensure true parity of service across all of our communities. I’m determined that West Midlands Police should lead the way and be a trailblazer in this respect and so I have established robust mechanisms for delivery and accountability. We need to work hard to ensure that our Black communities actually feel the difference in the quality of our service."


On the subject of commemorative events taking place across the UK, Race Equality Matters wrote: "31 years has passed since the racially motivated murder of Stephen Lawrence. Stephen Lawrence Day sheds light on a shameful mark on British racial history and provides the opportunity for greater awareness of such racial issues."


In memory of Stephen Lawrence 13th September 1974 - 22nd April1993


Therefore it illustrates that although West Midlands Police are willing to continue moving forward to build relationships with young Black men in particular, motivating them to join the ranks of the police force, there is still a very long way to go. The police service themselves admit that of the Black officers they train, most leave the service within two years. This is not surprising as the majority of Black officers in the West Midlands report that they are the victims of racism in their own workplace. This is, in fact, the highest level of racist behaviour in any public service in the UK.


West Midlands Police appealed for attendees at the event to come forward and make the voices of Black communities around Birmingham and the West Midlands heard. We were invited to join the Stop & Search Scrutiny Panel in our local community. In my own way I want to help young men like Stephen who feel let down by a system that treats them as guilty until proved innocent - and endure the "no smoke without fire" narrative for young men who've been stopped and searched for no discernible reason. So before retiring to bed that night, I emailed my request to be inducted onto the Panel for North Birmingham and Central/West Birmingham.


To find out more about West Midlands Police Stop and Search Scrutiny Panels click here: Stop and Search Scrutiny Panels - West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner (westmidlands-pcc.gov.uk)


If you live outside the West Midlands, google 'stop and search scrutiny panels' and the name of your regional police force.


Just ten days after the 31st Anniversary event, on Thursday 2nd May I attended the STOP - Stop Traumatising Our People Conference at the University of Wolverhampton. The STOP Conference was a joint initiative with CARE and EADSpace to build allyship between communities and organisations through a restorative approach. They recognise that institutions and communities need help through education to navigate and understand how traumatic life events, including experiences with racism, impact on mental and physical health. It was a solution-focused event with a keynote speech and a range of guest speakers on the subjects of:


  • Mental Health for Men and Women

  • Youth and Youth Justice

  • Safeguarding Adults and Children in the Community

  • Equality and Diversity

  • Trauma-Informed Practice

  • Law and Justice

  • Policing in the Community

  • Education and more ...

It was a truly wonderful day of insight, solidarity, unity and belonging!! The whole day was ably facilitated by the amazing duo Ruth South, Chief Executive Officer of Communities Against Racism Enterprise [CARE] and her sister Esther Douglas, Co-Founder and Director of EADSpace. Despite the stories of traumatisation, discrimination and fear, it was a very uplifting seven hours, that brought real hope for the future. 


Ruth South


One of the workshops - of several to select from - was delivered by Adrian Roberts, the father or a young man who in 2020 had a horrifically traumatic experience at the hands of no fewer than twelve police officers. He had done nothing wrong; he hadn't broken the law or hurt anyone. Yet he is left mentally scarred to this day by his lived experience; most frightening because it could happen to any person of colour at any time. I've written before about shameful police behaviour in the cases of De-Shaun Joseph and Child Q: Newsletter 14 | Aluna (aluna-abc.co.uk)


The little black book entitled AKIP - Applied Knowledge is Power, subtitled "The Handbook for the BEAM Community when Interacting with the Police" is co-authored by Ruth and Adrian. Sadly, it became necessary for them to write it, which became a labour of love until its publication in 2023. In an ideal world we wouldn't need to arm people of colour with knowledge and strategies to manage any involvement with the police - but in reality we do ...


West Midlands Police endeavour to improve awareness, knowledge and acceptance for their officers and have introduced Black History training for all staff and officers to improve their understanding of diverse backgrounds, experiences and relationship with policing. WMP celebrates its 50 year and posts: "The force has changed drastically over the years and we are very proud of the modern force we have today with increasing representation of the diverse communities we police. Our uniforms have changed and our vehicles modernised, but the one key thing we have always been able to rely on has been the support of the community we serve."


Cases of discriminatory stop and searches and historical police brutality have damaged community support as some members of the public are fearful of being stopped for having an expensive car or "looking suspicious". Young Black men have told me that they've been singled out of a group to be subjected to inciteful questioning and aggravating behaviour. As most of us don't know our legal rights when interacting with the police, it's very easy to enter a cycle of conflict with officers carrying out stop and searches. The content of "AKIP" is very useful to know and includes some of the information below:



Stop and Search


Police Powers to Stop and Search: Your Rights

The police can stop and question you at any time and they can search you depending on the situation. A police officer does not always have to be in uniform but if they’re not wearing uniform they must show you their warrant card.


Stop and Question: Police Powers

A police officer might stop you and ask:

  • what your name is

  • what you’re doing in the area

  • where you’re going


You do not have to stop or answer any questions. If you don't and there’s no other reason to suspect you, then this alone cannot be used as a reason to search or arrest you. A police officer has powers to stop and search you if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect you’re carrying:

  • illegal drugs

  • a weapon

  • stolen property

  • something which could be used to commit a crime, such as a crowbar


You can only be stopped and searched without reasonable grounds if it has been approved by a senior police officer. This can happen if it’s suspected that:

  • serious violence could take place

  • you’re carrying a weapon or have used one

  • you’re in a specific location or area


Before you're searched

The police officer must tell you:

  • their name and police station

  • what they expect to find, for example drugs

  • the reason they want to search you, for example if it looks like you’re hiding something

  • why they’re legally allowed to search you

  • that you can have a record of the search and if this is not possible at the time, how you can get a copy


Removing Clothing: Police Powers

A police officer can ask you to take off your coat, jacket or gloves. The police might ask you to take off other clothes and anything you’re wearing for religious reasons - for example a veil or turban. If they do, they must take you somewhere out of public view. If the officer wants to remove more than a jacket and gloves they must be the same sex as you. Being searched does not mean you’re being arrested.


You can find out your rights about how police body worn cameras are used and the storage of video footage here: Body Worn Video and other cameras | Your Options | West Midlands Police (west-midlands.police.uk)


Michelle manages the Police Race Action Plan [PRAP] and says: "This Black History Month provides an opportunity to reflect on our collective history, learn from the past and work towards a fair and inclusive future. Together, we can create a police service that is anti-racist and trusted by members of all communities."


Michelle Ugwueze


I very much hope that in my lifetime I see a real shift in mindset. To want is to wish, to do is to change; be the change you want to see. The murder of Stephen Lawrence, the institutional racism it uncovered and the incompetence of the investigate the perpetrators involved were blatant acts of injustice. Britain's police must act now to uphold justice and not abuse it, to become an authentic anti-racist service. The police exist to serve us and for that they are accountable to us - so please consider how you can ensure they protect and serve us; not punish and harm us.


Learn more about the Anti-Racism and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion training I deliver, including:

  • Exclusions & Ethnicity: Black British & Gypsy, Roma & Traveller Learners

  • The Effects of Poverty on Learning

  • Developing Cultural Competency: Awareness & Accountability

  • Reframing History: Authentic Learning For and About People of Colour

  • Deconstructing Diversity: Why Representation Matters

  • The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Stemming the Flow

  • Diversity & Mental Health in Education

  • Reflections: The George Floyd Effect

  • Emotional Wellbeing & Mental Health Awareness for Staff Teams

  • Emotion Coaching & Relational Practice

  • Hidden Children: The Impact on Adulthood of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

  • Exploitation and Intersectionality

  • Three levels of Anti-Racist Practice in Education Training

  • An Anti-Racist Practice in Education Workshop


Please book your consultation here:


Thank you for reading.

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