Southwark’s police force is cracking down on hate crime, domestic violence, and scrutinising how it undertakes stop and search.  

Addressing the council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday (July 22), the borough commander for Southwark and Lambeth, Ch Supt Colin Wingrove, set out his key priorities including the Covid-19 response, domestic violence, violent crime, hate crime, burglary, and community engagement.  

Ch Supt Wingrove, who took up the position five months ago, also said the force is working on recruiting more Black, Asian, and ethnic minority officers – across Lambeth and Southwark they currently represent 214 out of 1,540.  

The figure is not broken down further so that individuals with protected characteristics are not identified.  

News Shopper:

Overview and scrutiny committee

Scrutiny members quizzed the commander on domestic violence, stop and search, and the number of Black people in leadership roles.  

Ch Supt Wingrove said police see domestic violence “every day”.  

“We have highly trained officers that deal with domestic abuse and we prioritise it with our response teams.  

“Some of the indicators around domestic abuse such as response times, use of body worn video by officers, first responders, are amongst the highest in London. 

“[We aim to] make sure they have the skills, the equipment, and the ability to do what we ask them do to keep people safe,” he said, adding there had been an increase of about 30 offences in the last three to six months.  

“I think it’s been more reflected in some of the services which have received referrals and calls. We’ve seen an increase in the arrest rates and a month-on-month increase in the number of positive outcomes in relation to domestic abuse,” he said. 

Cllr Victor Chamberlain asked what the force was doing to increase convictions for homophobic hate crime, which is “still way too low at 5.8 per cent”.  

Police are reviewing the approach around hate crimes “particularly around investigations and engagement”.  

“And making people feel confident to come forward and report abuse and hate crime,” the commander said, adding that they are looking at borough-wide services that can help the community and help officers investigate. 

The forces also has hate crime advisors who work with trained officers who help neighbourhood groups and investigators. 

Ch Supt Wingrove said crime had decreased in nearly all areas during lockdown, but rates were creeping back up and the last year had seen some of the highest rates of violent crime.  

He said the force wants to focus on community engagement to improve “trust and confidence in policing”, as well as being more transparent. 

“That includes how we engage with local people on their wards to solve local problems and try and figure out what local people would like us to do crime-wise, community safety-wise, and go and do it and reduce anti-social behaviour,” he said.  

He said stop and search was a focus, referencing the “terrible events in the US and what happened to George Floyd, and Black Lives Matter”. 

“In terms of engagement there’s a whole raft of things we’re starting to do […] around how we talk about why we undertake stop and search, think about how we undertake it, but also how we engage more widely with communities and play our part addressing a whole range of inequalities that ultimately present community safety concerns,” Ch Supt Wingrove said.  

We see disproportionality in terms of ethnicity and more young Black males being stopped and searched. It’s something we watch and monitor really closely in terms of a scrutiny activity

Cllr Peter Babudu said a “huge part of community engagement is how people see you and how you treat people”, and raised the issue of Black men being stopped and searched, and handcuffed.  

“It’s really concerning to me, could you just say a bit more about that and how you’re working to make sure it isn’t something that regularly happens in Southwark,” he said.  

Ch Supt Wingrove said Southwark has “some of the highest levels of Stop and Search in London”. 

“Part of that is around the volume of crime, particularly around violent crime […] compared to other London boroughs.  

“We see disproportionality in terms of ethnicity and more young Black males being stopped and searched. 

“It’s something we watch and monitor really closely in terms of a scrutiny activity. 

“We have a […] scrutiny group that will review and look at our levels of stop and search in terms of how we undertake that power. 

“That’s an area we want to improve and be more transparent about because it’s important that people understand why we do what we do, have the opportunity to ask questions and to challenge […] and why stop and search is incredibly important,” he said.  

On average we take six knives off the streets in Southwark through stop and search every week, and any one of those could have injured somebody

Ch Supt Wingrove said officers always have to justify their use of the power, including handcuffing.  

“Every use of force is recorded and publicly available,” he said, adding that body worn video is used in over 95 per cent of those types of cases.  

Training around stop and search is also being provided, while officers are out speaking to youth groups to get feedback, he said.  

“Something that’s really important to note is that where we’ve seen stop and search in the last 18 months increase, we’ve seen the levels of knife crime with injuries drop by 40 per cent in Southwark.  

“On average we take six knives off the streets in Southwark through stop and search every week, and any one of those could have injured somebody,” he said.  

He also said that in many incidents of alleged police misconduct, none is found.  

Cllr Jason Ochere asked what the force was doing about improving representation in leadership rolls, as “of those in leadership across the UK only 0.2 per cent are Black officers”.  

“Around 23 per cent of the population in Southwark is Black, around 13 per cent is Asian, another 10 per cent other ethnic minorities,” he said, and asked what steps were being taken to improve the 214 figure.  

Ch Supt Wingrove said it was something the police are “really committed to doing”, and that they have a STRIDE meeting which looks at “inclusion, diversity and equalities, recruitment, and engagement”, while each BCU now has a HR outreach worker to assist in recruitment.  

“Their role is to network with organisations, with schools, officers, committee groups, Job Centre Plus, online Twitter sessions on recruitment. 

“We absolutely want to increase representation at all levels locally,” he said.