East London police chief: More BAME role models needed in Met to change negative perceptions of police

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 July 2020

Det Ch Supt Stephen Clayman. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA

Det Ch Supt Stephen Clayman. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA

Having more role models in the Met from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities will help to challenge perceptions of the police and encourage more diversity in the force, east London’s top police officer has said.

Detective chief superintendent Stephen Clayman, East Area BCU commander, spoke to this paper about recruitment and the challenges in attracting people from black communities to join the Met.

He said the force should not underestimate the importance of role modelling.

“When someone sees someone from their own community as a police officer, whether they are in uniform, a detective, or a PCSO, it demonstrates that it is a job for everyone. I do hope that people see that. Because that’s the only way we are going to make inroads.”

Recent viral social media videos, such as British athlete Bianca Williams and her partner Ricardo dos Santos being stopped by officers in west London earlier this month, have led to criticism of the police.

Det Ch Supt Clayman said: “I think the press have focused on some of the viral videos and they are only seeing a small proportion. We do so much stuff every day which is great.

“It is a difficult time for police officers but that’s not taking away what a great career it is.”

The Met has launched a police constable degree apprenticeship scheme in recent months, a three-year programme which allows people to be employed as an officer and progress towards completing a professional policing degree.

It is being delivered in partnership with four of the capital’s universities, including the University of East London.

Det Ch Supt Clayman said: “Apprenticeships are a brilliant mechanism. They are not the apprenticeships of old - I think there’s a bit of a stigma attached to the word apprenticeship.

“These are degree, high-level apprenticeships with a great outcome. So I’m hoping it will have a broad appeal.”

He said some communities, such as Sikhs, have a tradition of uniform-type roles but said that black communities represent the Met’s main recruiting challenge.

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The police chief claimed that a black officer, who has recently started in the East Area, was called a traitor for tweeting about Black Lives Matter.

“He is really proud to wear his uniform, immensely proud, and so he should be. Role models like that should hopefully encourage people to see policing beyond the initial job that they perceive it to be. You can only change from within can’t you?”

Det Ch Supt Clayman felt that if people have a perception that the police are prejudiced this will impact on their decision to join, similarly if someone has had a bad experience with officers.

Tackling these perceptions should be done through outreach work, such as going into schools, and talking about policing, he added.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do to try and encourage some people to join.

“Not least there is a pressure from families saying ‘why are you joining the police? The police are not your friends’ type response which I understand.

“Whether people think we are institutionally racist or not, I know we’re not.

“Do we get individual officers who do not hold the profession as we’d like to? Occasionally. Of course we do. We’re not perfect.

“We want opportunities to be available for everybody and, as I’ve said before, change comes from within. We want people to join and flourish in the organisation so that is a challenge.”

Det Ch Supt Clayman has headed up the East Area, which spans Redbridge, Havering and Barking and Dagenham, for just over a year.

He wants the area’s officers to understand they are all potential recruiters through their actions.

He added: “Quite clearly if we treat someone poorly in their eyes, they are not going to want to join the organisation.

“Our pipelines are strong into policing but we do want a diverse recruitment. We want people who are representative, understand London and the communities.”

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