A Middlesex University academic will be creating a pioneering toolkit educating Metropolitan Police officers about the many different cultures in London with help from the brother of Stephen Lawrence.
Dr Doirean Wilson, a leading expert in diversity workplace issues, will lead the project born of her work alongside Stuart Lawrence, whose sibling Stephen was murdered in a racially motivated attack.
The Met has commissioned Dr Wilson to create a cultural awareness toolkit, believed to be the first of its kind for a UK police force, that its officers can use for fact-finding and research to help gain a better understanding of the diverse communities which they serve.
“We are acutely aware that up to date diversity awareness must feature as part of our officers’ ongoing professional development, if we are to adapt to the needs of an ever-changing city. We are absolutely delighted therefore, that Dr Wilson and Stuart Lawrence are going to assist us by improving cultural awareness and procedural justice in the Met." Alex Kay, Met Police Chief Inspector within the Inclusion and Community Engagement department,
London, which is home to more than eight million people, is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world as around 250 different languages are spoken by its residents, one-third of whom were born abroad.
The police force have also asked Dr Wilson to create two short videos, with one looking at the importance of cultural awareness and how to build trust during public encounters and the other video studying examples of cultural understanding in practice.
Dr Wilson, the Diversity Lead at Middlesex and a Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management was approached by the Met after producing a Diversity Best Practice, Teaching and Learning tool kit for higher education providers.
Speaking about the Met project, Dr Wilson said: “We are all culturally socialised by the family that we’re brought up in and raised by, our community and school, but we don’t see it, we live it, just as we don’t often think about oxygen but we breathe and live by it.
“My interventions will promote awareness of different cultures and draw on issues of respect.
“My research has revealed respect is a core, commonly shared value for all cultures but it’s often taken for granted.
“The officers are trained to be enforcers of the law but they are not trained to be culturally aware in quite the same way, it’s an external perspective.
“So this will give them the opportunity to reflect on their ‘self’ and how they come across to different cultures while wearing their uniform.
“It’s essential to nurture a non-confrontational relationship with communities in London.”
Nic Beech, Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex University, said: “Doirean’s research identifies respect as a touch point between diverse cultures and it is crucial for us to establish and improve ways of connecting through such values.
“At Middlesex, like the Metropolitan Police, we also aspire to being more effectively diverse and inclusive and I look forward to learning from the next phase of this work.”
The toolkit will be available as an online resource to staff and officers and accessible via their mobile devices.
Alex Kay, the Chief Inspector within the Inclusion and Community Engagement department, said he believes the toolkit and videos will assist officers in providing a “more inclusive service to Londoners”.
Chief Inspector Kay said: “London has never been more multi-cultural than today and as recent events have demonstrated, never before has the work of our officers been under so much scrutiny.
“Diversity awareness has always featured strongly within our initial police training programmes.
“However, for some of our officers, it may have been a number of years since they last participated in any diversity training.
“We are acutely aware that up to date diversity awareness must feature as part of our officers’ ongoing professional development, if we are to adapt to the needs of an ever-changing city.
“We are absolutely delighted therefore, that Dr Wilson and Stuart Lawrence are going to assist us by improving cultural awareness and procedural justice in the Met.
“As Leo Buscaglia put it ‘change is the end result of all true learning’.”
Stuart Lawrence, a former school teacher and academic who champions diversity, said: “This toolkit will benefit the police as they will gain knowledge and understanding of their local communities which they serve.
“This is imperative as all police officers travel to their location of work and are often not from that cultural background.
“In turn hopefully the local communities will see a benefit from a police force that has a better understanding of the cultural differences in their local community.
“There can be trust issues in some cultures towards the Metropolitan Police and by the police gaining a better understanding of their local community I am hopeful this could help bridge the gap.”
The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust was set up by Baroness Lawrence after her son’s death in London in 1993 to create a fairer society and help young people from a disadvantaged background.