Open Statement: JUST West Yorkshire’s Concerns over the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s Review of the Complaint’s Process

JUST wrote to PCC Mark-Burns Williamson expressing our lack of confidence in The Crawford Review. Our four key areas of concerns are outlined below.  We have also reproduced his response which follows on from our statement. 
JUST is extremely disappointed that his response does not deal with our core concerns and our request to extend the deadline to enable BME engagement in the Crawford Review has been ignored. We urgently call on the PCC Mark Burns-Williamson to reconsider his decision.
 

FAO Mark-Burns Williamson, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner

The Crawford Review
 
I am writing to express JUST West Yorkshire’s lack of confidence in the Crawford Review – a process initiated by your department – because of its failure to engage BME communities meaningfully in the process.
 
The issue of police misconduct and the manner in which complaints are handled have been historic areas of concern for BME communities and ethnic minority officers in the Force. However since finding out about the Review recently from the Independent Police Complaint’s Commissioner, Cindy Butts, our enquiries have uncovered that many BME communities are unaware about the process you have initiated.
 
The issue of confidence in the process is critical as the Review gives the impression that you are seeking to bring about a culture change within the organisation. However, your apparent failure to develop an inclusive framework for the engagement of BME communities suggests that you might be more interested in carrying out a ‘tick-box’ review rather than challenge institutionally racist and discriminatory practices within the Constabulary.
 
Listed below are areas of particular concern to JUST West Yorkshire:
 
1.   THE APPOINTMENT OF XXXX (name of the organisation withheld) TO DISSEMINATE INFORMATION ON THE REVIEW TO THE VCS SECTOR
 
JUST is extremely concerned at your department’s exclusive reliance on a Leeds-based organisation to disseminate information about a West Yorkshire-wide review. JUST has spoken to a number of BME organisations across West Yorkshire and no one appears to have received any information on the Review from xxx. Would you please let us know the reasons for your choice of xxx? How was it recruited i.e. were they appointed or was it an open process? What measures did you put in place to assure yourself that the organisation had a West Yorkshire-wide reach, particularly to those communities that have suffered disproportionately from policing practice?
 
In view of the lack of information about the process, it is unlikely that the Review will attract submissions from BME communities that reflect their experiences of the complaints process. We are curious as to why your office did not inform JUST of the Review despite our intimate involvement around issues of policing as a racial justice, civil liberties and human rights organisation. Could you please explain the reasons for the omission?
 
Furthermore as a member of the Racial Justice Network, JUST is aware that you recently had a meeting with some of its members. It is clear from the notes of the meeting that you omitted to mention the Review and neither was the information conveyed to members subsequently.
 
I have also become aware that the BME representative on the West Yorkshire Independent Advisory Group has not been formally informed of the Review. Did your office not consider that the BME representative on the IAG would be a vital point for the wider dissemination of this information to BME communities?
 
2.         AN INVISIBLE REVIEW
 
There is a disturbing lack of information or publicity on the Review, which suggests to us that your department might be engaged in tokenism rather than a genuine attempt to change current policing practice.
 
Since being alerted to the Review recently I have been searching the internet for further information, however, it does not appear to feature on any search engine sites. I have also scoured your department’s website and struggled to find information about the Review on the Home Page. The drop down menus on your website do not carry any meaningful information about the Review and I only managed to track the information down after I put the terms ‘Crawford Review’ on the search feature. The failure of your website to signpost the Review means that you have failed to capitalise on a captive web audience who could have contributed to the process.
 
Furthermore, if the Review process was initiated on the 15th of May – almost 6 months ago – JUST remains unclear as to why there as been such a paucity of information about the Review when you have been particularly adept at publicising and profiling other aspects of your work widely.
 
I am also unclear why the information related to the Review does not mention the closing date for submissions. I had to call your office to find out that the closing date was the 30th of November.
 
Although JUST has posted information about the Crawford Review in our latest Racial Justice Bulletin (20th November, 2013), it is unlikely that interested parties will be able to meet the 30th November deadline. We can only conclude that your department is calculating that the paucity of evidence submitted to the Crawford Review will create a false impression that there is general satisfaction with West Yorkshire police’s handling of complaints.
 
3.         THE APPROPRIATENESS OF THE CHOICE OF CATHERINE CRAWFORD TO HEAD THE REVIEW PROCESS
 
We understand from your office that the decision to appoint Catherine Crawford to head the Review was made on the basis of your recommendation. I would be grateful if you can confirm if this is the case. Can you also outline the criteria for short-listing Catherine Crawford to lead the Review and whether other candidates were considered? Will the Reviewer be remunerated for this piece of work and if so what are the amounts involved? Clearly if taxpayer’s monies are involved, is our expectation that this will be in the public domain reasonable?
 
Our queries on the appointment of Catherine Crawford as the reviewer are based on a number of concerns. JUST is aware that during her tenure as the Chief Executive of the Metropolitan Police Authority in 2009, Catherine Crawford was embroiled in a ‘race row’ and did not have the support of the Metropolitan Black Police Association (MBPA). The allegations leveled against her in the legal papers submitted by the MBPA included:
·      a ‘failure to truly hold to account’ the senior members of the Met over race and religious discrimination and equality of opportunity
·      that she was ‘reluctant’ to investigate race discrimination complaints made by her own staff against senior White officers.
·      when allegations were made against senior ethnic minority officers she pursued them more rigorously.
·      that she had not fulfilled her responsibilities in implementing policies on race and equality
 
[http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8162998.stm]
 
Notwithstanding the outcome of the case against her, the fact that the reviewer has been mired in allegations of racism, should have given you cause for concern over whether the BME community would have confidence in the process. It is our view that your decision to appoint Ms. Crawford demonstrates a failure of judgment on your part and it begs the question over your commitment to bring about systemic and structural changes that are necessary to restore the confidence of discriminated communities in your Force.
 
4.        THE DECISION OF THE REVIEW TO OVERLOOK HISTORICAL CASES
 
We are unclear why your department is not looking at historical cases, as our case studies, particularly in relation to BME officers highlight that they were treated adversely and disproportionately due to an embedded culture of Institutional Racism and Islamaphobia within the Force. We are aware that their complaints to the IPCC were treated unfairly after they were sent back to the Professional Standards Department for investigation.
 
Many of these cases happened while you were Chair of the West Yorkshire Police Authority and to side-step these cases in the Review suggests a lack of openness and transparency in the process and an unwillingness to open yourself up to public scrutiny.
 
In view of the issues that we have raised, JUST calls for an urgent halt to the Review process, until the questions and issues that we have raised in our statement have been addressed. If the closing date for submissions is not postponed to a later date, it will undoubtedly dent public confidence in West Yorkshire Police and widen the breach with BME communities even further.
 
Ultimately the failure to do so would merely highlight the fact that the Review is a rhetorical exercise and unlikely to result in any meaningful change that will restore BME trust and confidence in West Yorkshire Police.
 
We look forward to an urgent response to our statement.
 
Ratna Lachman
Director
JUST West Yorkshire 

Download a copy of the Terms of Reference for the Crawford Review here.

Mark Burns-Williamson responded to JUST West Yorkshire with the following email :

Dear Ms Lachman
 
Thank you for your email of 21 November 2013.  I was sorry to discover that you have little confidence in the Crawford review.
I believe that it is vitally important that people have trust in their police force and ensuring integrity is a key part of my Police and Crime Plan.Right from the publication of my Police and Crime Plan in March 2013 I made it clear that I would commission a review of how complaints and conduct matters were handled by the force. Having announced the Crawford Review to the Home Affairs Select Committee in May, I publicised it widely through both conventional and online media.This is a fully independent review, which remains ongoing and captures wide ranging issues relating to the way that police complaints are currently handled by the force. The terms of reference are clear that this is a strategic review and will not review or reinvestigate historical cases.  Where there are any individual cases that require further consideration or review, I have tasked others to do this in the ordinary course of our business.
 
The Crawford Review is an opportunity to encompass the views of all groups, including BME communities, and this work is taking place in a rigorous and objective manner in close consultation with the Chief Constable, key statutory partners including voluntary groups, community safety partners, the IPCC and other PCCs in the region.   My voluntary/community sector advisory group has engaged with this review and a number of members have met with Mrs Crawford and arranged for service users to meet her.
Throughout, the process has been open and transparent, setting out the ‘terms of reference’ from the outset.
 
Mrs Crawford was selected to conduct this review because of her extensive experience having begun her career in the Home Office, working in the prison service, the Parole Board and the police department before moving to become Executive Director of the Association of Police Authorities, representing all police authorities nationally and Chief Executive of the Metropolitan Police Authority.  Mrs Crawford will receive no remuneration for completing this work, save for expenses relating to travel which my office is arranging, though I reserve the right to award an honorarium given the importance and scope of this work.I am confident that the work is continuing to move in the right direction and that it will accurately represent the requirements of local people in West Yorkshire.
I trust this provides a response to your concerns.
 
Regards
 
Mark Burns-Williamson
Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire