The man whose mother’s shooting sparked the 1985 Brixton riot has launched a project to improve police and community relations – by reducing violence against police officers.
Michael Groce’s social enterprise Rooted and Booted has created Pass the Baton, which aims to reduce the number of assaults on police through educating the community about what to expect during enquiries or arrest.
In 1985, while searching for Mr Groce, police shot his mother Cherry Groce in a dawn raid of her home, causing a three day riot in Brixton.
Mr Groce, who is now a community worker, poet and co-founder of Rooted and Booted, said: “The whole idea is to give people a better understanding of what the police are thinking when they get in contact with you.
“My experience with the police goes back to when I was a little boy. I’ve had use of force used on me many times, and when I really think about it I probably instigated 99 per cent of that through my behaviour.”
Topics covered in the workshops include being arrested and your rights, use of force and procedure of complaints.
The project will use manuals published by the Ministry of Justice and the Police College to educate people about what will happen when they are engaged by the police.
They aim to reduce escalation during police encounters and build trust between the police and the community.
Mr Groce said: “We as a community need to improve our relationships with these authorities, so for once, someone needs to advocate on their side.
“Let’s reduce the violence against them first. That would be a really good way of building trust with them.”
Research by City Hall has found that public confidence in the Metropolitan Police has dropped in the last few years.
In June 2019, 69 per cent of people said that they thought the police did a good job in the local area – but this fell to 56 per cent by December 2020.
At the same time, assaults on police officers have increased both in number and in intensity.
Government figures reveal that in 2018 to 2019 there were over 30,000 assaults on police officers in England and Wales.
Out of these 10,399 assaults resulted in the injury of a constable – an increase of 27 per cent on the previous year.
Mr Groce said: “You’ve got Black Lives Matter and all these other things that have been going on, with people trying to get their voice heard.
“They’re still beating the same drum, they’re using the same placards, we’re doing the same things. We’re going round in circles. We just need to change and try something different. This is an opportunity.”
But he also believes that accountability and transparency from the police is important.
Mr Groce said: “The complaints procedure should be much more transparent and accountable. That’s why we’re really pushing for the bodycam to be always on and always working.
“That’s really important because there’s no point in having a bodycam and when it comes to asking for evidence it’s not working or they didn’t turn it on. These things don’t build trust in people.”
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