Policing in Hackney - Findings from youth-led research by Account

Photo by Edward Howell

Account, a youth-led police monitoring group from Hackney, has released a new report titled ‘Policing in Hackney: Challenges from Youth in 2020’. All the research in the report was designed, conducted and written up by young people in Account.

The report documents issues around trust, trauma and accountability with regards to local police. It includes the following key stats:

  • Handcuff usage has increased in Hackney by 158% in the last three years

  • Young Black Men in Hackney are 6 times more likely than their white peers to be Stopped and Searched

  • Black people are also 4 times more likely to have force used against them

  • Police in Hackney also Stop and Search young Black men with a much lower ‘hit rate’ than white people. From August 2019 to July 2020 22% of searches in Hackney led to a positive outcome. For young Black men (aged 15-19) this figure was 14%

Research is important to everything that we do at Account. People don’t expect young people to be armed with their own evidence. Research gives us the ability to go out and seek a deeper meaning to the things that get presented to us. We don’t have to accept the story presented to us in the media, by the government, or by other institutions.

Our findings shone a light on a series of issues facing young people.

We learned that many young people would not call on police to help them when they needed it. We saw a deep disconnect in trust. A big part of this seemed to come from the fear of criminalisation among young Black men specifically. Stereotyped as gang members or criminals, they felt they couldn’t turn to police for help.

We heard countless accounts of wrongful stop and search and accounts of excessive uses of force. We heard about the trauma and the pain this caused. We saw first-hand the effect this was having on widening the gap between the police and the community.

...We want our research to raise awareness of these issues – not just in the media and politics – but also in our own community. Too many young people we work with grow up blaming themselves for the injustices they face. They internalise the negativity that is all around them and turn that violence on themselves.

...We want young people to be able to grow up to be bigger and better than the stereotypes our institutions put on them. We want to see them stand tall, walk with confidence, lesser than no one.
David Smith, Head of Research, Account
The project was created to give power to those marginalised by the system.

Our key political demand is to give our communities safe spaces to build and heal from years of traumatic treatment at the hands of state institutions.

The current times, whether in the pandemic or the protests, are quickly becoming a defining time for global politics around equality.

It is crucial that leaders in our society address grievances and, more importantly, the ideas coming from young people in these times.

Young people cannot be seen as second-class citizens anymore when it comes to policing. They need to be at the table, with a role to play in making decisions that affect their lives.

This is crucial not just for the politics of race relations and policing, but for the future of our democracy itself.
Emmanuel Onapa, Campaigns Manager, Account
Tackling racism is at the core of our politics - but the systemic discrimination faced by Black people shows that we all have much more to do to tackle this scourge on our society and institutions. 

Hackney Account’s report further highlights the significant failings of policing, with regards to the disproportionate use of stop and search on Black men compared to their white counterparts. This is unacceptable, impacts on wider trust and confidence, and it must be challenged at every level. 

Council officers have been working with both the Account group and police to look at how Account’s recommendations could be implemented. A plan is being developed which includes training for officers, improved engagement with communities, and ensuring existing processes for holding the police to account are strengthened to better represent the voices of those most impacted by stop and search. A joint trust and confidence working group is being convened to monitor and drive progress of this work.

We are committed to tackling systemic racism and working with our communities to ensure that those most affected by these injustices are supported and at the heart of shaping strategies and actions to address them.

We will continue working with Hackney Account, the Met Police, The Independent Office for Police Conduct and other key partners to collectively tackle systemic racism and improve outcomes for young Black men; ensuring that we have a police force that has the trust and confidence of all our diverse communities.
Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville and Cllr Susan Fajana-Thomas, Cabinet Member for Community Safety

Press release courtesy of Hackney Account

Image: Edward Howell