– Empowering the Black Community –
A workshop on racial profiling was part of the recently-held People of African Descent Week in Berlin. Nick Glynn, a former British police officer, talked at length on the issue and he gives advice on how Black people in Germany should deal with it.
Black people are often singled out as potential culprits in society which is why they are frequently stopped and searched by the police, followed in the supermarket, asked for their ticket by controllers in public transport or closely observed by security personnel in official premises.
Since Black people are subjected to these experiences more frequently than members of other groups, we talk of their racial profiling.
How the Black community should deal with racial profiling was the subject of one of the workshops at the People of African Descent (PAD) Week Germany, organised by Each One Teach One (EOTO) e.V. and which took place on 28-30 November 2019 in Berlin.
Nick Glynn, a former British police officer, talked at length about racial profiling in the UK from his experiences. The British police collect and keep data to give a full picture of their actions, he said. “Having data helps find a solution as you can hold the authorities to account on what the data tells you,” he noted.
“However, if the police do not record everything the picture will be incomplete,” Glynn, who holds a law degree and a Master’s in applied criminology, noted.
Glynn, an expert on police violence and racial profiling who is a senior programme officer at the Open Society Initiative for Europe, said efforts to counter racial profiling in the UK started after the Stephen Lawrence* murder in 1993 and that the situation had become much better today.
For example, there were 1.1 million stop-and-search recorded encounters per annum in the 1990s, today they number about 350,000. Despite the marked improvement, Black people are still seven times more likely to be stopped than their White compatriots, Glynn noted.
As a fall out of the Stephen Lawrence Report, which identifies institutional racism in the police, the law enforcers had become more open and make their data available to the public.
The workshop provided an opportunity for participants to contrast the experiences in Germany with those of the UK.
To hold the police to account, Glynn advocates for a culture of making official complaints – an important feedback that there’s a problem which could lead to the necessary reforms. “There is sometime a disconnect between the police leadership and the officers in the street,” he explained. This means that complaints from the public helps the police authorities understand the situation in the frontline of police delivery.
On gathering evidence of police misconduct, witnesses could write down the police description (service number, vehicle plate number) and time of the incident, among others.
A participant asked about the wisdom of filming the police observed mistreating a Black person. The law-enforcement expert suggested that participants should check what the German law says on filming police performing their duty. Another participant confirmed that it’s allowed in Germany so far, the police is not obstructed by the filming.
“I would advise that you film from a distance without saying anything,” Glynn said.
It should however be noted that the law forbids the filming of a person in a helpless situation.
On what lessons to learn from videos showing Black people being violently forced to leave a bus or train or tram. Glynn advised against disobeying the instruction of law enforcement officers. “Better to complain later but first follow instructions,” he advised. “If you struggle with the police, there is only one winner, the police!”
The take-aways from the workshop are:
Be careful when dealing with the police!
To bring about change requires activism and legal action
Black community must collect data for presentation to the police to protest racial profiling
You should learn how to make official complaints against the police!
*Stephen Lawrence (13 September 1974 – 22 April 1993) was a Black British teenager from Plumstead, south east London, who was murdered in a racially motivated attack while waiting for a bus in Well Hall, Eltham on the evening of 22 April 1993. The case became a cause célèbre; its fallout included cultural changes of attitudes on racism and the police, and to the law and police practice. It also led to the partial revocation of the rule against double jeopardy. Two of the perpetrators were convicted of murder in 2012.