Police and Crime Commissioner celebrates Black History Month

Black History Month is a time to come together and celebrate Gwent’s rich multicultural heritage.

It is an opportunity to find out more about the history, diversity and achievements of those that have called it home. However, it is also a time to reflect, to learn, and to look ahead to the future.

Our policing challenges in Gwent vary dramatically across a relatively small geographic area, and our communities are changing rapidly.

Existing political differences, and social and economic anxieties, have been exacerbated in recent months by Covid-19. The spread of this virus, and the effects of the social restrictions put in place to tackle it, has put clear pressures and demands on all our communities but our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities have been disproportionally affected by this.

The death of George Floyd in America has also, understandably, left many in these communities feeling anger and dismay. Trust in policing across the world has been damaged.

Moving forward, we must rebuild trust with these communities and reassure them that anyone dealing with the police in Gwent will be treated equally, fairly and with respect. We must make it clear that hate, in any form, will not be tolerated here.

The last six months have been some of the most socially and politically challenging in my life time, but there have been some positives and that is what we must focus on moving forward.

The conversations we have had to have with our communities, and a move to digital platforms by necessity, has resulted in bringing us closer together in many ways.

Community dial-ins, started at the beginning of the national lockdown in March as a way for our communities to raise local issues with the police and public sector partners, will continue going forward. These are important forums for information sharing and relationship building.

Further to this engagement, Chief Constable Kelly and I now personally hold regular meetings with community leaders from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities across Gwent. These have resulted in some incredibly valuable conversations, some of which have been challenging, but crucially we are united in wanting the best possible outcomes for our communities.

I have also been working with the Chief Constable to look internally at our own organisations and to ensure that our shared commitment to racial equality and diversity is reflected across our workforce.

It is important that, as far as reasonably practical, our workforces visibly reflect the communities we serve so that people can be confident that we understand their needs and expectations as residents.

We still have some more work to do but I am confident that, together with Chief Constable Kelly and her team at Gwent Police, we are driving a culture change that puts the voices of our communities at the heart of our processes, our policies and our decision making.

We must remember that we are better together, and that by learning the lessons of the past, we will create a better future.