A Metropolitan Police officer has called for more to be done to “rebuild trust and confidence” in policing in London’s black communities.
Police officer Bilal Sani-Mohammed has spoken candidly about the public’s lack of trust in the police at the moment and sympathised with their “frustration”.
“It’s not ideal,” he told The Standard of public trust in the police. “We are going through a bit of a period, with various different recent events that have happened, so understandably communities are very frustrated or unhappy with us.”
Since joining the Met in 2018, Mr Sani-Mohammed has been involved with implementing the Mayor’s Action Plan.
This aims to improve trust and confidence as well as address community concerns about the disproportionately in the use of certain police powers affecting black Londoners.
Working to improve the force’s “historically strained relationship with parts of the black community” is something Mr Sani-Mohammed is passionate about.
Mr Sani-Mohammed wants to bridge the gap between met and local communities, as well as see better representation within the force.
He continued: “After the death of George Floyd in America, quite rightly, a lot of our communities here expressed similar frustrations, and there is some truth to it.
“We do know about stop and search being disproportionately used in black communities. These are concerns that communities have raised.”
“We are a service, we do need to respond to it in a very empathetic way as best as we can,” he continued.
“We don’t always get it right and we’re not always going to get it right. If there is a positive from this it’s just that people are a lot more vocal in letting us know how wrong we’ve done things and giving us a specific action of how we can correct it.
“I’m here to take it all on board. I want to be a better police officer for the communities I serve.”
The 30-year-old has also spoken about his experiences as a black police officer and how it has played a part in his career, from implementing the Mayor of London’s Action Plan to helping prevent crime through initiatives on Croydon’s Safer Neighbourhoods team.
It is the everyday interactions with members of the public Mr Sani-Mohammed most enjoys about his role as a Metropolitan Police officer.
“One of my best moments was when an elderly resident told me how a multi-lingual poster I had created prevented her from becoming a victim of fraud when someone tried to scam her,” he said.
“It’s just the little interactions that I live for I guess.”
But the role has also come with some challenges.
Mr Sani-Mohammed recalled times when he has felt the need to justify some of his actions, such as eating pounded yams and Egusi with his hands following stares from a colleague.
On another occasion, Mr Sani-Mohammed recalls “being baffled” when he was confronted by a colleague for speaking Nigerian Pidgin to a member of the public because they found it rude not to speak English.
But the Met police officer said he uses these situations as “a teaching opportunity to show people this is how we do things differently, in a different part of the world”.
He continued: “Thankfully, instances like these are not daily occurrences that have blighted my career. The truth is my experiences are nuanced, with more positive interactions than regrettable ones.”
Having grown up the Nigerian capital of Abuja, he moved to Peckham in south-east London in his teenage years.
Mr Sani-Mohammed decided he wanted to pursue a career in the police after studying Criminology with Law at South Bank University.
Now working as an emergency response officer in Croydon, Mr Sani-Mohammed can be called on to deal with anything from a domestic disturbance to helping find a lost dog over the course of a shift.
And his advice to any aspiring police officers? Be the change you want to see is an ethos Mr Sani-Mohammed lives by.
He added: “You’re not just helping out policing. Think of it as an opportunity to work for London, to work for your city, to work for your community.”