Sikhs are calling for more positive interaction between the community and the police


by Nadeem Badshah A COMMUNITY leader has criticised the police for meeting faith representatives without much influence and also slammed some Sikh groups for failing to attend key meetings with authorities. Harmander Singh is chairman of the National Sikh Security Forum and the Metropolitan Police Sikh Forum. He was among 40 people who attended a meeting with the Met police to discuss any civil unrest after Brexit and security concerns at places of worship. The talks at New Scotland Yard in March were part of local officers meeting community leaders across the country following the mosque terror attacks in New Zealand. Singh, who helped launch the London Boroughs Faith Network, said police “tend to pick and choose who they to engage with in communities” in order to “tick a box” rather than meet groups with more influence. He said he was the only Sikh representative who turned up to the meeting, which he admitted was an “alarmingly regular occurrence”. Singh, who has been involved in public services for nearly 40 years, told Eastern Eye: “The people who attended do pass on information to their areas but they don’t represent the plethora of organisations out there. There’s only so much they can do. “I was the only Sikh there out of the 150,000 who live in London. I am disappointed that leaders, particularly from Sikh communities, are re-active, not pro-active, when things like this [attacks] happen. “We haven’t learnt many lessons since 9/11 and lessons on good practice are not shared. “Engagement could be better from authorities, but engagement is not responded to as well as it could be from community leaders themselves. “It’s a two-way process. A community group will volunteer someone to go, [but] there’s no guarantee they will turn up and no guarantee they will feed back to the group or act on it.” Singh, who has worked for the Department for Communities and Local Government to set up Faith Forums for London, added: “In reality, the authorities engage with a local person no one has heard of, [who] has no connections, no sway. We have elders but not leaders as such. There’s a lack of understanding from authorities, particularly police. “It would seem that for many from the Indian subcontinent who are settled in Britain, their priorities are higher about what’s happening ‘back home’ than what is happening in Britain.” Singh’s remarks came after the National Police Chiefs’ Council urged public figures to mind their language when discussing Brexit. A national pool of more than 10,000 riot patrol officers are available within 24 hours to deal with any serious law and order situations. But police chiefs are warning that such a major policing effort could not be sustained beyond about a week. Assistant commissioner Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said public figures should be wary of “consequences that weren’t intended” when talking about Britain leaving the EU. Meanwhile, the All Party Parliamentary Group on UK Sikhs has commissioned academics to produce “a comprehensive stakeholder map of Sikh organisations” that public bodies should contact, according to the Sikh Federation UK. In response to Singh’s comments, Narinderjit Singh, general secretary of the Sikh Federation UK, told Eastern Eye: “The police, officials and public bodies have, for decades, engaged with so-called community leaders or those they know or have been told to deal with. “This allows them to put a tick in the box that they have engaged with the Sikh community. “This is not just lip service, but much worse when serious issues need to be tackled that require public bodies and officials to genuinely engage with those connected to and in touch with the grassroots, and who can wield influence on the ground. “The stakeholder map will be widely made available so public bodies have no excuses when it comes to who they should engage with that matter.” Fiyaz Mughal OBE, founder of the Faith Matters charity, said “it was important to widen engagement with as many faith communities as possible”. He added: “Obviously, that engagement must involve linking with credible people with no baggage of past rhetoric”. The National Sikh Police Association (NSPA UK) was launched in Birmingham in February in order to represent officers and build relations with the community. Sergeant Jag Singh, one of the lead coordinators who serves with the Leicestershire Police, said: “The NSPA UK for us represents an important milestone in giving Sikh officers an official voice and developing wider relations between the police and the Sikh community. “It is vital to build bridges between the community and the police at a time when misunderstandings can arise all too easily. The NSPA UK will work with other support networks to promote inclusion within the police and support its members.”