Lee Jasper a founding member of Operation Trident, writes here exclusively for Hackney Hive on the dismantling of the Met Police’s unit.
The Metropolitan Police Service Operation Trident, was born in the late 1990’s after a demand from London black communities, that the police do something to tackle armed criminality in the black community.
Today we learned that it is to be effectively disbanded by Boris Johnson. The homicide investigations will be now be returned to local murder investigations teams.
The campaign for Trident was prompted by the brutal murder of Marcia Lawes, demanded that the Met, stop using registered criminally active informers, who were running amok in our communities, committing rape, robbery and murder, all with the sanction and support of the Met. I was one of the founding fathers of Trident in the late 1990’s.
It was I and a group of other activists, who challenged the Met to improve its relationship with London black communities, by tackling their tragic failure to investigate and prosecute the killers in our community.
I saw it as part of the post McPherson settlement. The police deal with racist attacks and officers and in return, we support them in tackling armed criminality. It was a mutually beneficial relationship.
People such as Cheryl Sealy, Nick Long, the late Arlene Mundle and Canon Ivelaw Bowman, all of whom demanded that the scandal of mothers left with dead bodies and no justice and the reckless use of criminally active, informers was brought to an end.
I became Chair of the Independent Trident Advisory Group in 2000 and remained its Chair until 2008.
The Trident unit focused on armed criminals in the black community and attempted to stem the rise in murder and mayhem in our communities. High profile media campaigns, tackling the supply of guns, improving witness protections and an increasing level of trust in the police, were some of its distinguishing hall marks.
The detectives and the staff became specialist on this difficult area, the rate of successful prosecution went up and gradually gun shooting came down.
It worked, because we had some of the harshest critics of the police as Trident Independent advisers; they were hand picked by me and other advisers. The Met had no say in our selections and often baulked at our choices. Our relationship was sparky, tense, creatively dynamic. This worked and worked well. So much so that it become an international policing model, hailed as providing the template example working with alienated communities worldwide.
As Trident advisers, we often restrained and held back the police from reverting to type, pointing out the way in which racist stereotypes, infected operational policing decisions. We shone a bright light, over every aspect of Trident Command Unit, always providing sharply, critical analysis, and demanding more from proof from them, that things were improving and for a while, they were.
I remember taking a Chief Superintendent into a black nightclub that he and his feared. He had received advise, not to attend and was extremely anxious about doing so. We went to the club at 2am in the morning, him in full uniform alongside myself and other advisers. We entered onto a packed dance floor and when the lights went up, everyone applauded the officer for doing something they had never seen before, coming to a night club and telling them he cared. After he spoke, he was offered drinks all night and people came to meet him and shake his hand. He left the club that night a changed man, convinced we were right and in one night, a sceptical officer, was converted to our cause.
We organised joint police community leafleting campaigns appealing for information about murders in our community, something that was unprecedented. We held meeting with nightclub owners, DJ’s and even had Roll Deep make us a tune extolling the foolishness of being a Badman. These tactics began the process of improving relationships that were deeply fractured.
Back then, the Met was policing its fears and missing a golden opportunity to improve relations with a community that was living in fear and had no confidence in the police. As we progressed, Trident officers enjoyed a higher trust and confidence rating, than that of regular Met officers, such was their reputation for doing the right thing.
I resigned as Chair in 2008, in an effort to protect the reputation of Trident from the disastrous effects of the racist media smear campaign that had engulfed City Hall at the time.
Some 15 years since the birth of Trident, that legacy lies in tatters, smashed on the rocks of police complacency, arrogance, and unrestrained political ambition. Returning relations with the police back to the era of the 1970’s. A period, where I described as a relationship more akin to a permanent state of war. No black people joined the police and no black organization spoke to them, such was the level of visceral hatred.
Today Trident standa accused of abandoning the black community, the killing of Mark Duggan and of designating London gang problem as primarily, a black problem.
In February of last year, Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan Howe decided that Trident would be changed form a discreet unit, into an anti gang task force and in one fell swoop, destroyed its reputation. I along with other key former members of Trident Advisers condemned that decision.
The death of Trident is complete. The Met under political pressure from Boris have reverted back to the lazy, stereotypical, racist policing methods of the past, expanding the use of supergrasses, criminal informers and the introducing the 2013 version of the SUS law, the dreaded joint enterprise.
These are precisely the type of policing tactics, which did so much to corrode the Met reputation in the past. Racist policing is back in full effect. The Met has returned to its default setting, as that of an institutionally racist organisation having been given the all clear by Boris Johnson’s much discredited Race and Faith Report published in 2010.
We called upon the remaining Trident Advisers to resign in protest; they foolishly choose to ignore our call, forgetting the founding mission to ensure at all times we were critical friends of the Met. Now they find themselves discarded and disrespected.
One year on the majority of the remaining independents were summarily dismissed leaving only people who agreed with senior Met Trident command.
The new advisers are not independent, having been hand picked by the police and Boris Johnson’s office. Most are conscientious, but lack the clear analytical capability or community credibility to do anything other than rubber stamp Tridents activities.
They have become blinded by their proximity to “power and influence” whilst seeking the ubiquitous funding cheques for their own pet projects. The Trident legacy, that had promised so much, has been squandered and wasted.
As for violent crime, the black community finds itself, right back where it started. Reported violent crime is down so the official figures say. I say that is utter rubbish, killings may be down due to the improvement surgeon’s skills, but black people live in constants fear of violence.
We have less dead bodies, but more walking wounded, more incidents unreported, more gerrymandering of the figures and mendacity and meaningless rhetoric from the Mayor. We have a Tory Commissioner who seems, professionally incapable of publically criticising the Mayor, even as he slashes police officer numbers.
Former Met Commissioner, Sir Johns Stevens would have given Boris both barrels, whilst all this Commissioner can do is, shine Boris’s gun. Meanwhile our communities are traumatized. Rocked with violence we are in deep shock, in a critical condition that is set to worsen, and nobody but nobody cares.
Witness protection is a mess, Crimestoppers call you back, innocent people are convicted under the joint enterprise law, stop and search is through the roof and supergrasses are back in court being paid off for dodgy evidence.
So farewell, Trident, once a jewel in the Mets crown, now a battered bloodied and abused. Crushed by an out of touch politician, whose commitment to tackling gangs is paper thin, glossed with Latin references and cheap publicity stunts.
We are back to the bad old days where Black life in London is seen as cheap. The consequences, I warn you now, will be both profound and expensive.