Waltham Forest announces citizens assembly to scrutinise Met Police

The assembly, the first of its kind in the country, comes as Waltham Forest has the lowest trust in the Metropolitan Police out of any London borough

Waltham Forest cabinet member for community safety Khevyn Limbajee with police in Waltham Forest. Credit: Waltham Forest Council

A citizens’ assembly scrutinising police officers in Waltham Forest will be held in the Spring.

The move has been described by Waltham Forest Council as the first time a local authority in the UK has held such an assembly.

The goal of the assembly will be to hear local people’s views on how policing can better reflect Baroness Casey’s report on the Metropolitan Police. The March report found the police to be “institutionally racist, sexist, homophobic”.

The council says the assembly makeup will aim to reflect the population of Waltham Forest in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, whether or not they have a disability, and where in the borough they live.

Two independent organisations, Involve, and The Sortition Foundation are assisting with the design and delivery of the Assembly which will be made up of 40 residents, all paid for their time.

The move comes as Waltham Forest has the lowest trust in the Metropolitan Police out of any London borough.

Speaking about the plan, Khevyn Limbajee, Waltham Forest’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “Baroness Casey’s review into the culture and practises of the Met revealed many failings across the service.

“We know too that locally trust and confidence in our local police is low, and that is what this assembly will seek to address.

“We want a police service that works for all our communities, and we know that many of the police want that as well.

“One of the most striking things to come out of the [Baroness] Casey report was that there were lots of officers who knew things weren’t right and wanted change.

“We hope this assembly will help give them the right tools to achieve that. We believe this could be a model for how community policing can be conducted in future.”

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Recommendations from the assembly will be compiled into a report by the independent organisation and then sent to the police.

Waltham Forest Council leader Grace Williams said: “There have been reports into the police before, and things haven’t improved – or at least not by enough.

“We want this citizens’ assembly to show what can be achieved when the officers listen to the communities they serve and work alongside them for change.  And so, create a lasting legacy.”

According to the council, assembly members will be chosen through a ‘civic lottery’ process where residents at addresses in Waltham Forest will be randomly selected from the Royal Mail’s postcode database. Letters will go out to these randomly selected residents in November.

The first meeting will hear testimony from local people and national experts about their experience interacting with the police.

Waltham Forest’s chief superintendent Simon Crick has promised to publish a full response to the assembly’s recommendations.

It’s unclear if the assembly will have the opportunity to sit at a later date to scrutinise the police’s delivery of accepted recommendations. The council was contacted for comment.

Chief superintendent Simon Crick said: “As the senior officer responsible for policing in Waltham Forest, I wanted to work in partnership with the Local Authority to deliver the citizens assembly. 

“Our officers in Waltham Forest are hard-working and dedicated to keeping the public safe.

“We want to do everything we can to reassure the communities in which we work of that commitment.

“For me this is an excellent opportunity to give the people who reside in Waltham Forest a greater voice in how policing services are delivered locally.”

While touted as the first of its kind when it comes to policing, Waltham Forest has held a citizens assembly before. In February and March 2020, the council brought together 45 residents to develop recommendations on how to stop hate in the borough.

You can submit your experiences and views on how neighbourhood policing can be improved here

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