The LET’S TALK 2020 Discussion Forums started in January 2020.

We began at The Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell, visited Surrey Square Primary School – both in January; then in February we went to Highshore School in Camberwell; in March we visited Ark Walworth Academy and Bede House. Sadly the scheduled Forum at Dulwich College was postponed due to Covid-19.

The policing of Southwark, now bracketed with Lambeth, seemed to present an opportunity for LET’S TALK to develop a strategic relationship with local Police to see what might be achievable. On 26th February 2020 Chris Haydon had a meeting with the Met’s Deputy Commissioner and the then brand new Borough Commander of Area South (Lambeth & Southwark) Chief Superintendent BCU Commander Colin Wingrove. ‘Operational duties’ or disinterest had interfered with plans for a senior officer to attend our Forums in 2020 and out of the five Forums the Chief Inspector, who had accepted our invitation to sit on the Panel back in the autumn, attended none.

In addition she has yet to organise a meeting with community facing officers in Southwark – agreed last July and due in September 2019, and has not been minded to reschedule a meeting over a Stop & Search film project which she said she would do in late January 2020.

So just what is the strategy of the Met vis-a-vis community relations?

Chris Haydon sits on the IAG committee in Southwark. the Independent Advisory Group has existed in Southwark for 20 years. Current committee members, all civilians from local communities, were presented with framed certificates recognising ‘Meritorious Service’. Oh really?

On the strength of Chris Haydon and LET’S TALK’s experience, MPS has little actual regard for working with community. It will turn up to events to talk at community. Naturally it is happy for community to work with it. Or for it. But as for listening and reflecting, this cuts no ice. Listening to our young people … well …

So, as local young people readily say, we don’t expect the police to solve knife crime. And now we see that we probably can’t expect them to work with us on any community-led initiative.

We have to do more than get involved. We have to lead the way.