Scarman, Lawrence & Community Engagement


Front Page of Command Paper 8427 'The Scarman Inquiry'

The Brixton Riots and the Scarman Report

Fourteen young people died in a fire at a house party in New Cross, south east London, on 18 January 1981. There was much speculation that racists were responsible for the fire, as many of the victims were black. This happened against a background of racial tension and poor community relations in the south London, and accusations of oppressive policing.

The fire and the reaction to it were widely held to have been the catalyst for the Brixton riots of April 1981. Which resulted in 279 serious injuries to police and 45 reported injuries to members of the public; over a hundred vehicles were burned, including 56 police vehicles; and almost 150 buildings were damaged, with thirty burned out. There were 82 arrests with up to 5,000 people involved in the riot.

The Scarman report was commissioned by the UK Government following the 1981 Brixton riots. Scarman said "complex political, social and economic factors" created a "disposition towards violent protest" and that the disorders were not planned but a spontaneous outburst of built-up resentment sparked by particular incidents.

Scarman found unquestionable evidence of the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of 'stop and search' powers by the police against black people and identified that liaison arrangements between police, community and local authority had collapsed before the riots and according to the Scarman report, the local community mistrusted the police and their methods of policing.

He recommended concerted efforts to recruit more ethnic minorities into the police force; changes in training and law enforcement; community consultation and accountability; changes in policing methods.

Part V: Policing - Proposals and Recommendations, Section H, dealt with the issues of Consultation and Accountability. In the conclusion to this section, Scarman stated the following:

"I have emphasised the responsibility resting upon Chief Officers of Police to take the community into their confidence in the development of policing policies and on the Home Office and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary to encourage Chief Officers to put their problems and policies on the table for discussion with the community. I recommend the establishment of statutory liaison committees or other appropriate consultative machinery. At the same time, I stress the responsibility resting on community leaders to respond constructively to the opportunities to influence policing which such machinery would provide. As Assistant Commissioner Gibson [of the Metropolitan Police Service] rightly pointed out in the evidence, mutual trust and goodwill must be established. Community representatives must seek to appreciate the difficulties (and dilemmas) of the police, and to avoid extravagant language or ill -informed criticism. If, as I believe to be essential, a relationship of mutual trust and respect is to be fostered between local communities and the police, both sides will have to be prepared to give and take and to work positively to establish and maintain such a relationship."

Stephen Lawrence Inquiry

Stephen Lawrence Inquiry - On 31 July 1997, the Home Secretary Jack Straw ordered a public inquiry, to be conducted by Sir William Macpherson and officially titled The Inquiry Into The Matters Arising From The Death of Stephen Lawrence.

Its report, produced in February 1999, concluded that the original Metropolitan Police Service investigation had been incompetent and that officers had committed fundamental errors, including:

  • failing to give first aid when they reached the scene;
  • failing to follow obvious leads during their investigation;
  • and failing to arrest suspects.
The report found that there had been a failure of leadership by senior MPS officers and that the recommendations of the 1981 Scarman Report, had been largely ignored.

The report gave 70 recommendations intended to improve police “Openness, Accountability and the Restoration of Confidence” and "To increase trust and confidence in policing amongst minority ethnic communities".

The Cantle Report

During the spring and early summer of 2001, there were a number of disturbances in towns and cities in England involving large numbers of people from different cultural backgrounds and which resulted in the destruction of property and attacks on the police. Whilst these disturbances were rightly condemned by all sides of the communities affected, the Government made clear its determination to establish why these disturbances took place.

Some areas, such as Oldham and Burnley, established local enquiries to find out more about the particular circumstances in their own communities which gave rise to these events. The Home Secretary’s response was to set up a Ministerial Group on Public Order and Community Cohesion to examine and consider how national policies might be used to promote better community cohesion, based upon shared values and a celebration of diversity. At the same time, he also established a Review Team, led by Ted Cantle, to seek the views of local residents and community leaders in the affected towns and in other parts of England on the issues which need to be addressed to bring about social cohesion and also to identify good practice in the handling of these issues at local level. This working group produced its report Community Cohesion: A Report of the Independent Review Team in December 2001 recommending:

The main points of the Cantle report, commissioned by the home secretary, David Blunkett, after the race riots in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley, were:

  • The towns showed a "depth of polarisation" around segregated communities living "a series of parallel lives".
  • Further violence is likely if government, police and community leaders fail to break this polarisation.
  • An oath of national allegiance from immigrants might help future race relations.
  • Politicians, community leaders and the media should promote "a meaningful concept of citizenship".
  • At least 25% of places in single-faith schools, be they state or private, should be given to children of alternative backgrounds.
  • Police should extend community policing initiatives and break drug networks in some no-go areas.
  • Local newspapers are criticised for publishing inflammatory material.
  • Where extremists are determined to stir up trouble, mutual ignorance of inward-looking communities can easily turn to fear.

Front page of the MPS report

4 Days in August - a different kind of report

In the summer of 2011 there were extensive riots in the London area. These events were, according to the MPS report 4 Days in August,  unprecedented in the capital’s history.

The MPS indentified a number of factors set them aside from anything that had been witnessed before. Understandably (and importantly) these factors had a significant bearing on the police maintenance and management of public order. In that context, both the direction of the report and ultimately its recommendations, need to be viewed as significantly different from the Scarman Report; being primarily concerned with improving police effectiveness rather than primarily concerned with improving police liaison, engagement, consultation and accountability.

What began as a peaceful protest in response to the police shooting of Mark Duggan (4 August 2011) escalated to violent local protest during the evening of Saturday 6th August 2011. This local protest outside Tottenham Police Station itself spread to wider parts of Haringey Borough and evolved from anger directed towards police to the opportunistic looting of local shops in the knowledge that police resources were committed elsewhere. On day two disorder spread geographically to a total of five London boroughs.

The disorder intensified rapidly which tested police resources unremittingly by the speed and scale of its escalation. Arson and looting became key features and it also became clear that social networking was being used to coordinate groups in direct conflict with the police. Day three exceeded the expectations of authorities and the public alike as intense disorder and criminality proliferated across 22 of London’s 32 boroughs.

Repeated attempts to quell disorder in one area met with its outbreak in other areas. Resources were stretched across the capital resulting in an insufficient response to some of the worst violence London had ever witnessed. Whilst the spread of disorder had begun to travel across the country on day three, day four saw this aspect become the primary feature. London meanwhile was flooded with police resources and order was restored. Over all, 3,931 offences were recorded which were connected to the disorder: 1,265 were non residential burglaries; 880 were criminal damage (excluding arson); 467 were robberies; 166 were arsons. There were 4,019 arrests associated to the disorder. Of these - 87% were male, 55% from a black ethnic group and only 8% were older than 35.

The Metropolitan Police Service’s report into the summer 2011 disorders in London contained  two key recommendation areas related to community engagement - Independent Advice and Community Engagement. These are written below and although they consider effective community engagement it is not from the Scarman, Lawrence perspective but rather from the perspective of the failure of the MPS's own established liaison groups  - that is the Independent Advisory Groups and their linked KIN groups. These groups operate in addition to the MOPAC (Scarman based) Community and Police Engagement Groups.

"2. independent Advice
2.1  Haringey Borough made extensive use of a community engagement model, which is in common use across the MPS, to obtain independent advice and community intelligence. Central to this model is the use of Independent Advisory Groups (IAGs).

The engagement model did not achieve its purpose in relation to the August disorder. It did not enable the disorder to be predicted and did not help in facilitating effective communication with Mark Duggan’s family during the vigil outside Tottenham Police Station on Saturday 6th August, significantly at what turned out to be a crucial turning point in the dynamics of the crowd.

2.2  Independent members of the community who are willing to give up their time and offer advice to the police are vital to the modern MPS. But the current MPS model for community engagement and generating independent advice is inconsistent and sometimes not transparent. In addition it is noteworthy that the complexity and diversity of London’s communities has grown since its establishment. The MPS is fundamentally reviewing the structure and process of its community engagement model. It is looking at its effectiveness in penetrating communities and reaching key groups, including young people.

2.3  This is involving not only talking to existing IAG members but also seeking a new and wider range of community voices that may not be heard in the current system. The review is undertaking an audit of all MPS IAGs to include membership and diversity profile and arrangements for their use. It will provide a clarity regarding the relationship of an independent member to the MPS and expectations of that member. This will, in particular, address the question of advisors attending police planning meetings and then taking part in the public activity which is the subject of that planning. More effective recording of the advice given, in order that disputes over what was said can be resolved later, will be developed. This will also allow the MPS to assess
how effectively it acted on specific advice.

2.4  In the shorter term, and in specific relation to Haringey Borough, the review recommends that the borough continues to work with its independent members and that representation is broadened from the black community and those under the age of 30 to ensure younger voices are heard. Deputy assistant commissioner (territorial policing)- work to be completed by June 2012.

3. Community Engagement
3.1  Alongside IAGs, an additional element of the MPS model of community engagement makes use of Key Individual Networks (KINs) - lists of key individuals within the local community. These were used specifically in Haringey Borough and elsewhere in London during the August disorder. However the MPS did not gain an understanding of the mood in communities and did not form an accurate community intelligence picture.

3.2  In recognition that it is the MPS’s responsibility to extend its reach into all communities, to fully understand what is happening locally, KINs are also subject to fundamental review as part of the MPS community engagement model. Initial work has identified that, if they continue to be the engagement mechanism, the membership needs to be wider, particularly to include young people. How the MPS makes the most effective use of these networks will also be an important aspect of this review. Deputy assistant commissioner (territorial policing) - work to be completed by June 2012.

3.3  The community impact assessment in Haringey suggested tension before the first night of violence was at a relatively low level, raising questions about the effectiveness of the MPS model of tension monitoring. To ensure a consistent and effective MPS-wide approach to the monitoring of community tension, the review recommends a detailed examination of the current Community Impact Assessment process. Deputy assistant commissioner (territorial policing) - work to be completed by April 2012.

3.4  Whilst the review has identified many good examples of communication with local communities and business groups during and after the disorder of August 2011, it has identified that activity was inconsistent and there was a degree of dislocation between local and pan-London events. The MPS has started a project to improve community engagement across London, identifying lessons from those boroughs which handle it well. Deputy assistant commissioner (territorial policing) - work to be completed by June 2012.

3.5  The review has identified good examples of partnership working in a number of situations, particularly the strong relationship with London Fire Brigade. The MPS accepts that it should assess large scale public order incidents at an initial stage to assess whether the earlier utilisation of the London Local Resilience Partnership would be of benefit. To this end the MPS has already introduced this approach within its public order training courses.

3.6  The MPS has identified the need to broaden its engagement activity. In particular social media presented a portal through which the MPS should have engaged with its communities more effectively, specifically by countering, in the interests of public safety and confidence, information the MPS understood to be incorrect.

3.7  Through the launch of the ‘MPS Digital Communications Steering Group,’ the MPS has undertaken significant work to sharpen its use of social media and digital communications to engage more widely with the people of London. It has already increased the number and use of its twitter accounts and launched individual borough accounts, with an undertaking for all boroughs to have an account in 2012. It has also developed a new Facebook page and made use of ‘Bambuser,’ a live streaming website. This work will remain a high priority for years to come.

3.8  Public attitude surveys suggest there has been no significant change in the public’s general confidence in the MPS. However, the MPS is aware of perceptions that stop and search is a major source of discontent with the police. The most significant issue raised with the MPS is not the use of the stop and search power itself but the nature of the encounter. The MPS accepts, as it always has, that the quality of interaction can improve. The MPS has undertaken work to review not only its stop and search strategy but also the wider engagement of its officers, particularly those in the front line who
regularly come into contact with young people.

3.9  The Deputy Commissioner has already set out the MPS’s new approach as part of the Commissioner’s Total War on Crime - the use of stop and search must become more targeted and effective, with a greater focus on tackling violence and increasing trust and confidence among communities. The focus is not on reducing the use of stop and search but making it more effective and ensuring every encounter is first class. The vision is to achieve the highest level of trust and confidence in the MPS’s use of stop and search as a tactic for keeping London’s streets safer. Commander (territorial policing) - work to be completed by April 2012."