20 Years of Challenging Hate #7:Numbers are a wonderful thing but as Einstein said, it’s all relative! From walking the beat to riding horses and supporting victims of Hate Crime by Ian Davey

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Hi, my name is Ian and I am the Reporting Analyst at Stop Hate UK. It is my job to collate all the contact data and present it to commissioners and funders in a format that informs about helpline activity but hopefully also enlightens.

I may be responsible for producing the tables and charts, but what drives me are the human stories that sit behind the statistics. For that reason I would like to take this opportunity to explain how I came to be working at Stop Hate UK and how my experiences, particularly within the public sector, have shaped my thinking.

Before joining Stop Hate UK, I served as a police officer for 30 years. I joined in the early 80’s and experienced the racial tensions that sparked disorder across the country and the miner’s strike that were a feature of that time.   I am ashamed to say that I was aware of pockets of racial discrimination within the service; mercifully carried out by a small number of individuals but largely unchallenged.   The role of police women was seen as secondary and this attitude was reflected in policy and practice towards domestic violence, for example. Tape, and subsequently video, recording of interviews with suspects was a futuristic fantasy and seen by many as unnecessary. Supervision was based on militaristic principles: ‘Don’t ask why I have to jump, just ask how high’, but then ‘It didn’t do me any harm!’

However, it was also a time of significant change for the police service and within a few years it was a totally different working environment; one that required policing and police officers alike to stop and think about the consequences of their collective and individual actions. The murder of Stephen Lawrence was a seminal moment for the police service, and the recommendations within the MacPherson report remain pertinent to this day. The service has continued to change and evolve as a more inclusive and empathetic place to work but it has been a long haul and there is still some way to go in some areas.

I don’t want to sound as if I am somehow ungrateful to my former employers and colleagues because the police service has many more good apples than bad – and it can achieve amazing things when it needs to. There are many colleagues and more senior officers that have inspired me over the years and shaped my thinking and attitude to life probably without knowing it. But it is those early experiences that have the greatest pull on my conscience. For example, being thanked by a black colleague for patrolling with him because his own shift members had refused because of the ‘attention’ he attracted; the female victim of domestic violence who was greeted by a seasoned officer stepping over her prone body to speak to her ‘old man’ about what had happened; another black colleague seeking my help with a case file because it kept getting sent back from his sergeant without any explanation of what was wrong. All these were an affront to my sense of fairness and respect but I didn’t feel able to do anything about it; being white and male I felt part of the problem.

It wasn’t until later in my service, and with a couple of promotions under my belt, that I felt confident enough to make my voice heard. This says more about me than the service of course, as there were many individuals who did stand up and challenge and as a result created an environment within which I could be influential (at least I felt I was!). Towards the end of my time in the police, I was appointed as the diversity lead for the force and had a particular responsibility for tackling Hate Crime.   In an attempt to build on the work of my predecessors I recognised that, as a force, we were simply not receiving as many reports of Hate Crime as we should reasonably expect. At that time the force was one of the leaders in re-establishing community based policing; some excellent links had been forged with various communities and minority groups. However, that had inadvertently lead to complacency; it was felt that due to the improving relationship, communities would be confident enough to report matters to us. Of course, this did not take into account the unique nature of Hate Crime in all its forms. Victims of Hate Crime rarely want to ‘make a fuss’ and often minimise what is happening to them so that it simply becomes part of their ‘normality’. Reporting to the police, therefore, is the last thing they would do – worrying that it could lead to reprisals for example – and so continue to suffer in silence.

It was then I came across Stop Hate UK and was impressed by the passion and commitment the organisation showed in tackling Hate Crime. Stop Hate UK’s unique service meant it complemented what was already available in Derbyshire and neatly filled the all too apparent gaps. What set the organisation apart was the 24hr nature of the business; real people not answer phones; the victim centred approach – non-judgmental and with time to listen; the ability to link disparate services for the benefit of the victim; a breadth of ways to access the service – whatever is most appropriate for the victim.   These features impressed me and enabled me to find funding to commission the Stop Hate Line service across the county. Those features remain today and in many ways are enhanced (not just because I work for them now!); I‘m pleased to see that the Stop Hate Line is still being used in Derbyshire over 2 years after I retired.

Commissioning of the Stop Hate Line has seen increased reporting and greater awareness of the factors that beset victims of Hate Crime. Statutory and third sector agencies work better together as a result and, most satisfactorily for me, more and more police officers have ‘got it’ and would recognise hate elements without the victim having to raise it and – actively pursue the perpetrators.   The time was not without challenges of course; I recall having a heated debate with an experienced detective when I asked for an incident of violence against a person with a learning disability to be marked as a Hate Crime. His view was that ‘we would forever be marking incidents as ‘hate’ because the victim was also a perpetrator and always in trouble with the police. He had failed to make the link that the victim’s learning disability was the reason he was associating with the ‘wrong sort’ and was a key factor in both his offending and victimisation. I am pleased to say he eventually changed his belief, particularly after the CPS prosecutor echoed my arguments, and headed a number of initiatives to increase reporting and recording of Hate Crimes and incidents.

Perhaps the most significant positive impact the Stop Hate Line had within the county was for victims of Disability Hate Crime. The level of reporting Disability Hate Crimes increased and it seemed many people with a disability felt more comfortable using the Stop Hate Line than calling the police.   For a long time society has treated disability as a problem and, as a result, attitudes could be aggressive or dismissive at best. I have for a long time been involved with a local Riding for the Disabled group; I have always been affected by the transformation that is often seen – when a child who spends the majority of their time in a wheelchair being literally spoken down to, is suddenly on top of a horse and is now looking down on the world. It is inspiring and at the same time, a sad indictment of society in general.   I feel that, in some small way, the Stop Hate Line provided a similar feeling of release for disabled people experiencing Hate Crimes in the county; I hope that doesn’t sound too fanciful but I genuinely believe there is some basis to this thought.

I have rambled on for a while now and not really explained how I eventually came to work for Stop Hate UK. Well simply, an opportunity arose shortly after I had retired and I really felt a need to be part of the team and continue the work I had found worthwhile and rewarding as a police officer. In spite of my horrendous interview technique, I was fortunate to be offered the post of Reporting Analyst! It is a mark of the organisation that the logistical problems, that the place of work and home posed, were so easily resolved. As an employee of Stop Hate UK, I also work on the helpline which is encouraged for all staff and ensures that we all remain focussed on the victim.

I hope you have found my thoughts and experiences interesting at least; perhaps you would like to hear more about statistics, spreadsheets and formulas ……………..   oh, where’s everyone gone?!