Charles Crichlow is a former Police Officer who served for 30 years in Greater Manchester Police (GMP). He was elected President of the National Black Police Association in 2009 and served in that position for four years. He is an experienced community organiser in the Manchester area where he lives and has been instrumental in supporting and developing numerous community organisations and activities.
Charles is also a graduate of the University of Manchester School of Law and holds a Masters in Criminology. His research focused on measures to reduce serious violence within communities in the United Kingdom. Charles was an Independent Special Advisor to the recently concluded Tutu Foundation UK Review into Institutional Racism at the Westway Trust, North Kensington.
Unjust State Murders - US to the UK: Unjust state murders are not exclusive to the United States. Not only does the UK have a long history of over policing black and brown communities, the UK Police Federation (PF) has consistently acted to protect offending police officers from the justice system in a way that even the American system is not able to.
In his opening remarks to the Burning Work Digital Forum, Charles used personal reflections from discrimination that he faced in the Police to draw a comparison with wider structural racism that still pervades British Policing. He noted that institutional actors in the UK, such as the Police Federation, designed to hold officers to account for their actions, have instead accommodated a culture of inaction and indifference to the injustices of discriminatory policing and state murders that persist.
Transparency & Accountability Deficits in UK Policing: In the face of discriminatory policing institutions and practices, the smart camera phenomenon in filming and facilitating the sharing of police behaviour has revolutionised our ability to observe and organise around police misconduct. However, Charles noted that this same public facilitation which brings Police conduct into the spotlight, enabled by digital tools, has not yet taken place in the all important Police Boardrooms where key strategic decisions around Race Equality strategies are designed and monitored.
The result is a creation of a transparency deficit at crucial levels of the Police. Building on this idea of a transparency deficit, Charles noted that a similar deficit exists when we look at the ways in which the Police hold themselves accountable via the Police Professional Standards. In effect, as Charles notes, we allow the Police to “mark their own homework” when they review their own conduct and shortcomings. Instead, Charles argues that we need to take accountability outside the hands of the Police’s Professional Standards and design an “entirely independent” institution in its place to provide real accountability to the public.
Next Steps for UK Policing: In light of the racial inequalities, transparency and accountability deficits that persist in the criminal justice system, Charles was asked whether a legal duty to reduce these disparities would be effective in Policing and what the contours of such duty would look like. Charles noted that such a legislative duty to reduce racial disparities, going beyond the current duties under Equality Act, would be incredibly useful. However, he cautioned that such duties would be ineffective if not enforced by a body of professional, independent scrutineers rather than by the Police themselves.
Returning to this notion of accountability in Police, Charles finished his contribution to the session by answering a pertinent question regarding the effectiveness of the Black and Asian Police Association (BAPA). Formed as a result of concerns around deaths in custody and increased stop and search, BAPA initially emerged as a form of internal accountability and as a network to speak truth to power.
Charles notes that this ethos remains within BAPA but that increased work with the community must be coordinated. This opens up space to discuss what design could facilitate community work in conjunction with BAPA and what role this vehicle could play in organising around the deficits, inequalities and discriminatory practices that persist in British Policing as highlighted by Charles.