Being diverse and inclusive is the best counter to violent extremism.
Before I delve into the newspaper coverage of a few weeks ago, let’s talk about Chris Burnham.
I don’t know Chris personally, but I recognise his work… He’s one of the best kind, a fantastic cop, someone who makes a difference in his community on a daily basis. He was horrifically injured in the line of duty in Coventry. Vanessa Jardine and I met his family that evening and have been working closely with Cov SLT and FCID as the investigation progresses. A man is now arrested and charged and the hard work continues on the investigation.
My thoughts are with Chris’s family and we will continue to offer them support and friendship as he starts his long road to recovery. I think of you all too, as knowing that a colleague has been injured affects us all. Chris Johnson’s work on establishing if we can do anything to help protect us further continues. I’ll update soon.
A few weeks ago you will have seen coverage in Newsbeat and in the media covering posts from an extreme right wing group identifying WMP as a legitimate target and some images related to myself. We have carefully evaluated these threats and we have deemed normal security arrangements are appropriate for you and me. An investigation is underway.
I do think this incident allows a reflection on violent extremist ideology, how it finds a home, what this means for us and why I think that the need to ensure WMP is diverse and inclusive is critical.
We are living in an extremely turbulent time both in the UK and internationally. There is a rise in nationalistic feelings. In this context people are defining what they describe as their nation and who fits into this definition. An “us” and “them”. These definitions, in cases of violent extremism, legitimise acts of violence and terror against the “them” who become the enemy. We have seen this in hate crime and also a growth in right wing extremism over the last few years.
In the case of right wing extremism the ideology can start in some very mainstream legitimate footholds. Questioning why the police take part in pride events for example. There are of course legitimate debates about the balance between crime fighting and community engagement but sometimes these discussions can migrate into expressed grievances that diverse groups are being treated more favourably. The next step is racist or offensive language about these groups. These grievances can move towards some alarming ideologies based on distorted facts that become truths. The same factors have been evident in Islamic inspired violent extremism. It saddens me greatly that whenever I tweet about a visit or any activity I may do with underrepresented groups I see some of this in the responses I get.
Racist behaviour and far right extremism have a direct link, one that was particularly visible at last night’s England v Bulgaria match. This extremist behaviour starts with some grievances about “them” and “us” and the use of racist language and behaviour that dehumanises “them”. We have seen this with the detection of National Action from hate crime stickers we saw around universities in Birmingham some years ago and again recently.
Policing in the UK is service that seeks to protect all. Our fearless approach to act to protect anyone sets us apart. There is no them and us we talk about “we”. We will not tolerate acts to harm any part of our community. It’s why action on hate crime is a strong feature of what we do.
However to be universally trusted we need to demonstrate this is the code we live by. Our own organisation should be diverse and inclusive and never create an “us” or “them”. Our institution needs to reflect those we serve as best we are able. That helps us understand the communities we serve. That’s why I am determined we build WMP to be an exemplar in this area. It’s why we have diversity and inclusion plans and why there is no tolerance for racism or discrimination in the force.
You will have seen comments made by the DCC concerning the outcome of two independently chaired misconduct hearings in the force. I endorse the points she makes. It is my intention to write to every single member of staff in WMP to set out unambiguously our lack of tolerance for racist, sexist and discriminatory behaviour. It is my intention to seek reform of misconduct procedures. The Chief Constable should be responsible and accountable for any disciplinary sanctions.
Events show it is important we keep our eyes and ears open and to be on the lookout for violent extremism. To tackle hate crime and racist behaviour. The ACT training we have given is to create much more confidence for you to report matters that concern you. Extreme right wing activity is a clear threat to communities.