Met Police support youth-led football tournament

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UNITY: Kickoff@3 tournament winners, Ballers FC, with supporters and Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick (Image: Trevor Raymond)

IT WOULD be far from controversial to state the police and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups have not always had the best of relationships. For example, one could point to the 1981 Brixton riots as the moment the institution underwent a seismic change. Following the Brixton riots, there were recommendations that police forces up and down the country urgently needed to implement new approaches to training and recruitment to reflect the communities they serve.

This also brought about community policing, where “bobbies on the beat” were instructed to work with and get to know the people in the communities to which they were attached.

Years later, another seismic change was the investigation into the Stephen Lawrence murder, another low point for the police force and particularly the London Metropolitan Police, who were described as institutionally racist by Lord Macpherson.

In response to the Macpherson report, the government pledged to increase the number of minority ethnic officers from around 2,500 to 8,000 by 2009.

SUPPORT: Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick with Met Police cadets (Image: Met Police)

The Met Black Police Association
It was fitting then, that while many people were watching Mexico beat Germany in a group stage of the World Cup, the Metropolitan Black Police Association (Met BPA) were busy engaging with the community by running the 2018 final of Kickoff@3, a football event at The Warren – The Metropolitan Police Hayes Sports Ground in Bromley. In fact, the Met Police kindly provided access to the space, which covers 22 acres, free of charge.

Michael Wallace, a serving police officer and co-founder of Kickoff@3, a collaborative initiative which uses sport, music and other forms of creativity to engage young people, said: “It is important to work in partnership, hand-in-glove with communities and charities.”

Ashley Levine, Kickoff@3’s other co-founder describes himself as “someone who didn’t think he’d ever work with the police because of his past history”. This, the pair believes, makes the competition so attractive to vulnerable young people, who are often sceptical about collaborating with the police.

Daniel De Gale Cup
Last Sunday’s event featured 16 teams from across the nation competing to be crowned the 2018 champions.

This year’s competition was played in memory of Daniel De Gale, who sadly passed away from leukaemia in 2008. Following De Gale’s death, his parents, Beverley and Orin, set up the charity ACLT (African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust) to help address the lack of BAME stem cell donors.

Beverly De-Gale said: “ACLT are thrilled to be a part of Kickoff@3 because we have an opportunity to do some amazing lifesaving work. Although our charity has a focus on the BAME community, we register people of all ethnicities because blood cancer does not discriminate. It could affect anybody at any time.”

Also attending was Neville Lawrence, chair of Knife and Violent Crime Prevention Group (KVCPG) and father of murdered teenager Stephen. No one would begrudge Lawrence for holding onto a deep hatred of the force which failed to properly investigate the murder of his son. However, when asked how it feels to be at an event with the Met, he said: “When I have a chance to speak to police officers I tell them you are trained officers, trained to deal with the public so treat them the way you are trained. You can be friends and nice to a person and still arrest them.”

Angela Herbert, vice chair of KVCPG, said: “I am happy to be here today because I originally visited a Kickoff@3 event in St Albans and was so impressed to see the way that diverse young people were engaging over a football tournament.

“I saw a tall white boy remove his shirt and lean across a black boy. They were laughing like life-long friends yet they were on opposing teams. That was the point I knew I wanted to lend my support to this initiative and help prevent young people falling into violent crimes and gangs.”

The day, however, wasn’t just about football but also about promoting careers which young people may not have considered previously. The RAF and Met BPA were both on hand to talk to young people about employment and apprenticeship opportunities.

Lisa Cherry of the Met BPA said: “We’ve moved a long way from the Macpherson report. We work with the police to help them understand how they could encourage people from BAME communities to join them.

“The Metropolitan Police is changing because we now have a wide range of officers from different backgrounds reflecting multicultural communities. Therefore, as an organisation, diversity is something the Met BPA is always striving to encourage.”

Kim Botting, mayor of Bromley and a former police officer, and Cressida Dick, the Met commissioner, both gave up their Sunday to spend several hours attending the amazing football event in south London.

Competition Winners
The final was played between New Durham College and the Ballers Football Club from Crystal Palace, who went on to win the much-coveted Kickoff@3 2018 Daniel De Gale Cup.

No matter the difficulties BAME communities have had with the police over the years, they should be highly commended for supporting Kickoff@3, this powerful youth-led initiative.


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