Hackney youth leaders speak out about being Black role models at event
- Credit: East London Cable
An event to launch research into police activity in Hackney heard its creators are looking to "empower the Black community".
Hackney Account, a youth-led police monitoring group set up in 2012 as the Young People’s Stop and Search Monitoring Group, produced a report entitled Policing in Hackney in October.
The report tackles a variety of issues, including trust, accountability and trauma, and found young Black men are six times more likely to be stopped and searched compared to their white peers in the borough.
It also revealed handcuff usage has increased by 158 per cent in Hackney over the last three years - noting the tactic can cause embarrassment and humiliation - and said excessive force is used four times more often on Black people than white people.
At the report's online launch event, which was delayed from October to December 14 amid the pandemic, head of research for Hackney Account David Smith said: “I want to empower the Black community and the young people in general."
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There were also interviews with members of the research team, including David, and also campaigns manager Emmanuel Onapa and community researcher Yolanda Lear.
Emmanuel said: “I remember when I first started writing it, the pandemic just started. I got sent back from uni. I was literally on my bed after finishing my university assignments, writing this thing.
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“Because I had my own experience of being stopped and searched, it was very traumatic. It regurgitated that feeling and that pain that I once felt. Especially seeing the figures of the disproportionality when it comes to Black men being stopped and searched.
“It was a grieving process, it was a healing process, but we got it done.”
David too, felt personally connected to the archival research he carried out: “Before, I didn’t appreciate how important it was to look at the history of what my mum and my nan went through in the 1980s.”
It felt to him like history repeating itself: “When I went through it, my mind was blown. I thought: 'Are you serious, this stuff was happening then?'”
He now feels he has “more of a self-awareness of my situation in life and what can happen to me, through the stuff that happened to my parents and my nan that got swept under the rug".
Yolanda spoke about how the impact of unfair treatment from the police on mental health felt pertinent to her own story and first book, The Journey to an Undefeated Mind.
She said: “The book that I wrote is inspired by my own personal experience.
“It’s about getting people to overcome [it] and empowering them.”
A Met Police spokesperson said: "Tackling violent crime is a top priority for officers in Hackney, as it is for the rest of the organisation across London. We are committed to using all the tactics available to us to suppress these serious crime types, including stop and search.
“We know this is vital in removing dangerous weapons off the streets, deterring criminals and driving down violence.”
They said it was a “tragic truth” that knife crime and street violence disproportionately affects men of African-Caribbean heritage, both as “victims and perpetrators”, and the Met “very deliberately" directs resources into "areas blighted by higher levels of violence”.
“That said, we do not underestimate the impact that the use of stop and search has on some individuals and that it continues to cause significant concern within some BAME communities.”
Addressing the use of handcuffs, the spokesperson added: “Handcuffing for stop and search is not mandated by policy and as with all use of force, the decision to handcuff someone is for each individual officer to justify using the national decision model.
“Officers are trained to engage, explain and de-escalate the situation by talking first. When they do use force, in the vast majority of cases it is handcuffing a person during arrest.”
They said it was most frequently used to prevent escape, preserve evidence and ensure the safety of officers and the public.
“Any disproportionality in the use of force is extremely complex and no doubt linked to wider disproportionate outcomes across society, including in health and education,” they added.
The Met recently launched a video on the use of force at https://youtu.be/tt1VZtGuMec