Britain has been told to scrap its “racialised” war on youth violence after an investigation accused the nation of breaching human rights law with police use of an anti-gangs database featuring predominantly black, male suspects.
Amnesty International called on the government “to urgently review” the Metropolitan Police’s Gangs Matrix and set up a public enquiry after it found that black men constituted 78 per cent of 3,500 people registered on the monitoring database.
“There is clearly a huge problem with knife-crime violence at the moment in London, but the Gangs Matrix is not the answer,” said the NGO’s UK Director Kate Allen, asserting that the list is “part of an unhelpful and racialised focus on the concept of gangs.”
“The Mayor of London needs to dismantle the Matrix unless he can bring it in line with international human rights standards,” she said.
“The entire system is racially discriminatory,” according to the Amnesty boss, who explained that the matrix “perpetuates racial bias” by “stigmatising young black men for the type of music they listen to”.
Khan’s London: Gang Warfare Kills More than Terror, Despite Tightest Gun Controls Firearms Are ‘Easy’ to Buy https://t.co/uGkyI60BrM
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 5, 2018
This claim was denied, however, by Scotland Yard in a statement which said: “The style of music that someone listens to has no bearing on whether someone is placed on the matrix.
“However, evidence that someone is glorifying gang violence in a music video posted on social media can be used as an intelligence source,” they said, noting the requirement for at least two corroborated pieces of intelligence on an individual before they are put on the list.
Police defended their use of the database, which was set up in 2011 after major riots hit the capital, insisting its aim is to “reduce gang-related violence and prevent young lives being lost”.
“Some young people identified as part of a gang may not yet have been drawn into gang violence. These individuals will be offered support to divert them away from activity that may result in either violent offending or them becoming a victim.”
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 16, 2016
Scotland Yard added that “in relation to suggestions of potential racial disproportionality of the matrix”, it was working with Amnesty International and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) as well as Tottenham MP David Lammy.
The Labour politician and black identity activist had blasted the register for “profiling … urban young black men as gang members”, and questioned why “the Bullingdon club” of wealthy Oxford University student are not considered by police to be a gang.
Last month, former Labour leadership contender Chuka Umunna said removing the word “gang” from public discourse would help solve rampant youth violence in London, claiming that the term “reinforces the notion that they are gangsters when they are not”.
“At the heart of any strategy must be a public health approach … [which] looks at violence as a condition enabled by society,” stated the former shadow business secretary, who has previously called for authorities to treat London’s knife crime epidemic as a “mental health issue”.