This month’s guest blogger puts the spotlight on how he feels stereotypes and prejudice can strain the relationship between the police and the communities they serve.
Officer: There’s been a report of a robbery and you match the description.
Young person: Why are you bothering me? What’s the description?
Officer: A young black male with hooded clothing, so let me do my search and if you resist you could get arrested.
Young person: But officer it’s a rainy winter day and there are lots of black males like me in this area, so why me?
Officer: I’m not explaining myself again, don’t resist while I perform this search.
Young person: No you’re not touching me. Get of me. Stop. I don’t have nothing on me.
Officer continues to forcefully search the young person.
Concerned member of public: What’s going on here? Why are you troubling this young boy? Young man are you okay? Do you need help? Do you need someone to call your Mum?
Officer: Step…step…step back. Move. I’m doing my job.
The concerned member of public continues to help the young man, and the officer gives her a loud verbal warning.
Concerned member of public: Maybe if you wasn’t so aggressive young people would have a better outlook on you and your fellow colleagues.
Officer: Well if these people don’t do the things they do we wouldn’t have to.
Young person: These people? What do you mean these people? You don’t know me from nowhere.
The officer dismisses the young person’s point, and doesn’t feel comfortable enough to engage in the conversation.
Officer: Well young man, nothing has been found on you, here’s the stop check. Have a good day.
Young person: Have a good day! I’m late for football now because of you and your stop checks.
Officer (to the concerned member of public): I don’t understand we just try to do our job and get all this hostility.
Concerned member of public: Treat people how you want to be treated, yes you have a job to keep the community safe but that’s everyone in the community. Not just the ones that wear suits. Have a nice day as I have got work to go to.
Officer (sighs): You might be right, have a good day.
Concerned member of public: I love this community, when I was younger the community was close. I knew everyone on my street, we always used to help each other, a real close knit community. You see I was born right after World War II, so everyone was really close, you had to be in them times. Since then it’s more of a multi-cultural area and you learn to understand other beliefs and nationalities, and I’ve come to embrace it. This is my community and I love my community.
Young person: Community, I’m sorry I don’t quite understand. I never felt like much of the community. Me and my friends at school are a community I guess. But no I don’t feel part of the community. I get labelled a certain way because of my skin colour and my choice of clothing; I can’t change that. Maybe I can change my clothing but that’s what I like, Nike tracksuits with hoodies. Police never understand this, all I hear is you match the description. I’m sick and tired of being stereotyped.
Officer: I wasn’t born in the community I work in, but I put my all in for this community. I was born in a nice suburban area, just me, my mother, my father and my sister. My parents paid for all our uni fees and set us up well for adult life. It had no crime and was a quiet area. I try my hardest to relate to these young male and females, however I feel very distant from their reality, and my colleagues always seem to reassure me that they’re the bad guys and we’re the good guys. I’ve been dwelling on this…is there more to it? There must be…there must be.
We all have labels we have to deal with in life. However, it depends on you if it defines you. The police officer has a label he has to deal with on a daily basis. Society, social media and stereotypes make it harder for the police officer and the young person to understand and be understood.
Audience - do you have a label you have to keep up with? Expectations that people expect you to meet, characteristics and behaviours people associate you with? If not, that’s okay just enjoy the read from a neutral perspective.
Author: Young man, aged 22 years, from London.
To read more on young people's experience of the justice system, read our 'Youth people's voices on youth court' here.