'We must use this moment to look at what more we can do to remove injustice and racial disparity from our society'
Hardyal Dhindsa, police and crime commissioner (PCC) for Derbyshire and the only BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) PCC in England and Wales, speaks out following the death of George Floyd
Two weeks ago George Floyd died under the knee of a US police officer saying “I can’t breathe”. This week his funeral took place in Huston, Texas. In America and beyond, ‘I can’t breathe’ and the ‘knee on my neck’ articulate the experience of black people’s history of subjugation, slavery and continued discrimination. This has a resonance in the UK and many other countries across the world.
The film of the horrific death of George Floyd was seen by us all across the world. Like many I strongly condemn this brutality. But is this enough? How can this happen in today’s society?
For me, this has once again put a spotlight on racial disparity – not just in policing but in our wider society. Campaigns like Black Lives Matter continue to tackle this inequality and discrimination but horrific events like this keep happening.
Some say it could never happen here in the UK. Policing in America is more violent, especially with gun use, whereas our approach is policing by consent. But the sad truth is that black people have died in the UK under the hands of the police, including through asphyxiation, disproportionately.
This racial disparity is experienced by black, Asian and other ethnic minorities and is wider than just in policing despite the great progress that has been made since the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. That led to a whole system approach to tackling institutional racism by implementing the McPherson Review recommendations. But events like these should remind us that more needs to be done.
Let’s not forget the tragedy of the Grenfell Fire and the discrimination against the Windrush Generation by their illegal deportation scandal. This week, I watched a BBC reality drama ‘Sitting In Limbo’ depicting how Anthony Bryan, a Windrush Generation migrant was treated – arrested and threatened with deportation despite living here 50 years, working hard and living a law-abiding life. It made me weep seeing his pain and quiet dignity despite his treatment. We must use this moment to look at what more we can do to remove injustice and racial disparity from our society.
I am proud of the professionalism, dedication and selfless heroism of our Derbyshire police force and the great job they do, day in day out, in difficult circumstances. I am proud that I was the first PCC to make improving the diversity of the police workforce to reflect our communities as one of my top strategic priorities. The chief constable and I have made great progress in narrowing the gap. But more needs to be done to continue to give confidence to our black citizens to join the police and help deliver on the Peelian Principle of the ‘the Public is the Police and the Police is the Public’ and policing by consent.
Derbyshire Constabulary has also made good progress in reaching out to all our communities and to ensure that its powers are fairly and justly applied be it, for example, in stop and search; Taser deployment; and support to victims…..
The death of George Floyd to me is a reminder not to be complacent and reinvigorates my own and the chief constable’s efforts to review all our procedures and priorities to see what more we can do to ensure that racial disparity and discrimination is rooted out of the service we deliver to the people of Derbyshire.