Helping “Justice Roll Down” in Devon and Cornwall
The chair of the Devon and Cornwall Police Community Scrutiny Panel says it exists to be a critical friend to the force and hold it to account when needed.
The Reverend Nathan Kiyaga juggles the voluntary role with being Chaplain of St Cuthbert Mayne, a joint Roman Catholic and Church of England Secondary school in Torquay, and Rural Dean of Torbay.
Devon and Cornwall is one of only a few police forces in the UK so far to have a panel to provide independent Stop and Search scrutiny in an effort to build greater trust with communities.
It is overseen by the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
The panels were officially recommended in 2014 by the Home Office and College of Policing in the wake of the McPherson report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
“We always champion good practice, highlight unhelpful practice and call those responsible to account.” Rev’d Nathan Kiyaga
Nathan, who is from Uganda, said “The panel is there to ‘hold to account’ and be a critical friend to anyone who puts on a police uniform.
“We look at bodycam videos to see how the force uses and exercises its power.
“We also look at Section 60s (Stop and Search incidents) and other aspects of how the force operates.
“Being a critical friend is so that we can have systems which don’t just support one ethnic group but support everyone in the community.
The panel, made up of volunteers of different ages and walks of life, meets monthly.
It is operating at a time when trust in the police has been shaken by the George Floyd murder trial, the Met Police response to vigils in memory of Sarah Everard and issues of racial bias highlighted by the Black Lives Matter protests.
“The theme of the panel is building trust between the public and the police force – which has been lost and mired by the global experiences of people with the police,” Nathan said.
“It is also because of national issues which are happening, some of which have happened in the South West, including our force.
“We want to play our part to build that trust and to allow ‘justice to roll down like a mighty river’, as Amos reminds us in the Bible.
“The three priorities are scrutiny, around the use of force for example, there are also lay observation schemes, where anyone can go out with the police to see what actually happens..
“The third priority is training and building public awareness about scrutiny.”
Providing protection and reassurance
Nathan said the panel compiles a monthly report with recommendations, which are then fed back to Devon and Cornwall Police.
“We always champion good practice and highlight unhelpful practice and call those responsible to account.
“We are not here for any one ethnic group but for everyone to feel safe, and to feel that the force is doing what they are meant to be doing to protect them.”
He said the panel was also there to provide reassurance for police officers:
“It helps officers to know that the systems in place are strong and robust and reflect the ethics code that they signed-up to as leaders within this community and as peace keepers.”
He said that the panel would always welcome new members.
“Do pray that more people will join from all walks of life and that the systems we want to see transformed will be as we work with this amazing team of volunteers.”
You can find out how to volunteer as a panel member here.