The policing approach to preventing violent extremism has become more sophisticated and has not caused widespread damage or harm to relationships between Muslim communities and the police, says a new report commissioned by Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM) business area.
In the most comprehensive study yet conducted, the research, carried out by Universities’ Police Science Institute at Cardiff University (UPSI), assesses the effects of policing in delivery of the Government’s current Prevent strategy, in the Muslim communities of Britain. The report identifies ways in which the delivery of Prevent policing can be further enhanced and improved.
In addition to the improved Prevent policing structures and processes, the emerging findings from the evidence-led, Cardiff University research found that Muslim communities have a higher level of trust and confidence in the police than the general population. The report also highlights that fact that communities are increasingly taking the lead in challenging violent extremism, working in partnership with the police.
The research clearly shows that levels of community cohesion within Muslim communities have recovered after a decline following the 2005 bombings in London, which suggests that Prevent is not having a negative impact upon community attitudes and perceptions. The research also shows that there are a number of Prevent engagement initiatives which are designed to encourage debate and establish links between local policing and their communities, and the feedback from this work is extremely encouraging and will assist in building bridges between the police and the Muslim communities. Progress has been made in terms of community engagement in recent years, but the breadth and depth of the police’s reach into and across key communities needs to be built on.
The report highlights that the police service has achieved greater ‘visibility’ amongst Muslim communities, although it does acknowledge that this does not automatically translate into increased engagement. However, Muslim men remain more positive about policing overall than the general population, but younger Muslims under the age of 35 have a less positive attitude towards the local police than their elder peers, which is also typical in the general population. Muslim communities do express a higher level of concern about disorder, hate crime and burglary when compared to the general population and well rounded neighbourhood policing strategies, which tackle these issues, will assist Prevent policing by creating increased levels of confidence in Muslim communities. In addition this could help shape opportunities for Prevent intervention activity to support vulnerable individuals.
Sir Norman Bettison, ACPO Lead on Prevent and Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, welcomes the research findings and indications that communities welcome the engagement around Preventing Violent Extremism;
“This research is extremely encouraging. The police service has invested considerable resources into community engagement within the Prevent arena and significant progress has been made.
“We recognise that we are still learning and that we have more work to do, alongside our partners, to fully engage with all communities as we move forward. We have always made it clear that Preventing Violent Extremism is a long term endeavour and that there is no quick fix to the challenges we face.
“Emerging findings from this research, together with the findings of the Government’s Prevent Review will help us to refine our Prevent policing approach so that it becomes more effective and reaches deeper into communities.”
He added: “You have a 365 day a year relationship with communities to encourage a conversation about problems that matter to the police. It’s no good pitching up and saying that ‘we want your help’ if we have failed to respond to the day to day concerns of the community.”
The emerging findings in the report will be used to inform future Prevent policing activity. These include the need to continue to effectively engage with communities around issues that resonate with them, whilst maintaining local flexibility and adaptability in delivering Prevent intervention and support.
Professor Martin Innes, from Universities’ Police Science Institute at Cardiff University said:
“In this research we have sought to shine a light upon counter-terrorism policing and the workings of the Prevent agenda. Importantly in terms of moving the public debate on, we have been able to develop an evidence-led approach based upon detailed interviews with police officers involved in delivering Prevent and representatives of a number of Muslim communities, together with national survey data. The evidence we have shows that contrary to some claims, Prevent does not appear to have caused damage to police relations with Muslim communities. The research also identifies a number of areas where police can improve their effectiveness in working in partnership with Muslim communities to counter the threats of violent extremism.”
This report follows earlier research carried out by Universities’ Police Science Institute at Cardiff University in 2007 when the Prevent strategy was at an early stage. This earlier report addressed the need for police to operate a hearts and mind strategy rather than just eyes and ears to encourage people to convey information to them about people they think may be radicalising others, or vulnerable to being radicalised.
The 2007 research highlighted the need to build interventions that were deliberately designed to build trust and confidence in the police, and to establish communication channels between communities and the police.