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Community panels in every Met borough to monitor use of force

Panel members will have access to officers’ written accounts of events, stop and search forms as well as body worn footage

Every London borough will have a panel comprising local community members who will regularly meet to review incidents where officers have used force.

Called Police Encounter Panels (PEPs), they will be co-chaired by community leads and area police commanders.

Panel members will have access to officers’ written accounts of events, stop and search forms as well as body worn footage where it is appropriate.

Processes will be in place in line with data protection where body worn footage is concerned, and meetings will not take place online for that reason.

While existing community groups have been shown randomly-selected body-worn footage of stop and searches, PEPs will routinely review this footage alongside additional material from a range of police encounters, and be able to specifically request to review certain incidents. 

There is also an option for rotating members who can attend for a limited number of meetings, but they would not be able to view body worn footage.

Detective Chief Superintendent Ella Marriott leads for Crime Prevention, Inclusion and Engagement within the Met. She is part of the Deputy Commissioners’ delivery group with the responsibility of delivering police encounter panels across the Met.

The first panel was held at the start of the month, but the initiative has been officially launched last week.

“There are two elements to this,” she told Police Oracle. “One is ensuring that we’re transparent and open and that we welcome people to come and look at what we do and help them understand the complexity of policing.

“The second element is about a two-way feedback process, ensuring that […] we also learn from the community, making sure we’re culturally competent about the communities that we serve.

“There’s a great example from [a panel last week in Forest Gate] where a woman who works with young people reminded us about the development of young people’s brains and how they don’t always react like adults.

“Part of our aim is also for those members of the community to go back to their friends, people they socialise and work with, and say actually the Met’s been really open about some of their policing actions which could have been better. We gave feedback and this is what they’re doing, but it was a really difficult incident to deal with.”

Incidents will be chosen by a facilitator who may randomly pick out a number of encounters. If a case involves a misconduct allegation that has been dealt with, it does not mean that the incident will not also be reviewed by a panel. Panels will equally look at things like stop and search and road traffic accidents.

The aim is for the panels to meet every 4-6 weeks, but there is an element of flexibility and there is an option to have additional meetings to discuss specific incidents that the panel wishes to review fast-time or that the force believes it would be beneficial for the public to have more information on.

DCS Marriott told Police Oracle that on occasions the police do need to put their hands up and say that they don’t always get it right.

“To think we get it right all the time would at worst be arrogant, at best naïve and I think, as all of us in all our jobs, we can always be better,” she said. 

She added that an important element of these incidents is supervision, particularly in cases where a lot of officers turn up.

The panels so far have showcased a range of ethnic backgrounds, but not necessarily a range of ages. The Met have said that they are particularly keen to hear from young people.  

“Part of the aim of these panels is to ensure that we use force only when necessary and that we consider all of the de-escalation techniques that we could use.

“We don’t want to use force, we want to ensure that it’s kept to the absolute level that’s appropriate to achieve the lawful aims of the officer.”

The Met recently reported an 11 per cent reduction in the use of force from 2020 to 2021 in regular encounters.

DSC Marriott said: “These panels allow us that opportunity to see whether that 11 per cent reduction is right or where it should be. We also have to recognize that officers came across some really complex incidents where the use of force may be appropriate.

“It’s transparency and what that transparency delivers [but part of it] is saying come and look at how difficult it is to police.”

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