A reflection on the recent ‘Knowing the Ground’ event encouraging dialogue on Care, Public Safety and Policing the Inner City by Faith and Racial Justice Lead, Dwayne Hutchinson

Isn’t it great when the community stand together?

Well, that truly happened at the Knowing The Ground Event at Compton Library in Harehills, Leeds on Tuesday 24th January 2023.

People from the community attended to hear solutions. They wanted answers. They desired explanations. They did not want the same dismissive excuses or politically correct answers. They wanted the truth. The community wanted to hear the Police acknowledge and apologise for their institutional wrongdoings and admit their mistakes.

‘Knowing The Ground’ created a platform for the community and the police to voice frustrations, hurt and concerns. Residents and community leaders joined young people, families, friends and colleagues all gathering together to hear the Police respond to the worries of the community of racial inequality and mental health concerns.

As the event began, the singers sang the Christian hymn, “How Great Thou Art” and the Gospel song, “You Deserve the Glory” in Romanian. Although people in the audience may not know the words to these songs in Romanian, those who were familiar with the English translation of the songs were able to connect to the singers and musicians through the melody. From having the melodious connection of these powerful songs, people were immediately connected. The Guests applauded the musical skills and abilities, including those who were not familiar with the songs too, which created a further connection through music. The singers and musicians’ rendition peacefully welcomed the guests and opened the community event in positive way and facilitated a calming atmosphere in the midst of tension and unrest.

The community expressed their experiential and historic hurts to the Police. The continued failings of some officers, has truly caused a mistrust between the community and the police. The community has every right to wonder if they can trust the Police, but by having the representatives present throughout the evening and engaging with the community, it allowed difficult issues to be discussed together.

It can be challenging to put trust in an Institution that often defends the wrongs of their employees and colleagues. However, from Police representatives admitting mistakes, institutional racism and disproportionate statistics of stop and search can be addressed.

A former police officer speak about her experience of racism too, and there seemed an expectation from the community to continue this open and honest dialogue.

Guests were able to enjoy delicious food and delicacies, including Eritrean coffee, provided by local caterers from various ethnicities. The conversations on community safety continued even in the food queues.

It is clear to see that the more the community continue to see the Police choosing to make advancements in their learning about racism, increased trust will develop as a result.