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Event with the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester

19 May 2011

Photo of Jonny Wineberg, Afzal Khan and Chief Constable Peter Fahy

From left to right, Co-Chair Jonny Wineberg, Co-Chair Afzal Khan, Chief Constable Peter Fahy

The Chief Constable was introduced by MJF Co-Chairperson, Councillor Afzal Khan and  MJF Co-Chairperson Jonny Wineberg chaired the meeting.

The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, Peter Fahy, branded the level of hate Crime in the UK as “unacceptable” in an address to the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester. He told the gathering of Muslim, Jews and friends that the underlying causes of the 5,000 plus hate crime each year are prejudice and ignorance. He was, however, optimistic about the future as, he said, “Young people get it – they want to meet people of other races and understand them better.”

Inter Faith organisations like the Muslim Jewish Forum (MJF) could help to eradicate such ignorance. The more people of different faiths got together socially and learnt about each other's faiths and visited each other's religious institutions, the more they would realise that they have much in common. He enthused that, “What unites us is far more powerful that what divides us. We need to find more ways of celebrating diversity.”

During the hour and a half meeting, he stressed the importance of community relations and cohesion. “We have got to be good at picking up tensions and rumours. This is a serious issue,” he argued, “that, if handled badly, can lead to riots and attacks.” The biggest concern, he felt, was in white, working class communities where deprivation, isolation and lack of education help racists to flourish. Whilst he was clear that police could not get involved politically, he applauded the fact that faith groups stood together against racists and the wonderful work in responding to the EDL and not being provoked.

In an informative, illuminating and eloquent presentation, Mr. Fahy discussed many aspects of policing and in particular his work with faith communities. He was born in the East End of London to Irish immigrant parents and was brought up a strict Roman Catholic and still attends Church every Sunday. Accordingly, he has always had a keen interest in Faith. Whilst training as an accountant he realised that this career was not for him. In 1981 he joined the Police Force and saw this as a “calling”.

Being made Chief Constable of Greater Manchester was his “dream job”. He presented the audience with Peel’s "Nine principles of Policing", dating back to 1829. The 7'th principle which stressed the most important aspect of policing to him, namely the Force's accountability to the public. On being appointed the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester in 2008, he noted that there was much more cultural diversity in Greater Manchester than in his previous role in Cheshire.

With his shared English and Irish heritage, last week’s visit of the Queen to Ireland was immensely profound for him. Also profound was the fact that he was talking to this forum shortly after the announcement that two people are to be tried for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. “The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry,” he asserted, “was a watershed in policing in the UK.”

There had also been considerably more challenges to policing since 9/11 in the form of extremist terrorism. Although there had been problems with IRA Terrorists, they had always given warnings and were not suicide bombers. In  his running of the Counter Terrorism Unit, he had tried to build on the lessons from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. However, the extreme threat meant that measures taken to address them were often also more extreme.

Whilst stating that the Police were not able to get involved in Politics, he was concerned at too much emphasis on targets and statistics and the move to give more power to the Home Secretary. Processes, procedures and bureaucracy had increased with the need to record actions and had sometimes led to inappropriate policing. The response now has been to go back to neighbourhood policing an Peel’s Principles.  “People do not need to know the name Peter Fahy. I am much happier if they know the name of their neighbourhood officer.”

“It was,” he shared, “not nice being Chief Constable at the moment, having to make 3,000 people redundant over the next couple of years.” He was also worried at the impact of the cuts, as people start to feel hopeless and abandoned. This meant that it was even more important to foster goodwill with communities and give them back power. “As the cuts bite, we will need more faith communities to fill the gaps.”

He put forward the idea of ‘Community Panels’ building on the idea of restorative justice. “Bringing victims and perpetrators together can be much more profound that other responses.”

The Chief Constable concluded on an optimistic note that 68% of the community now had confidence in the Greater Manchester Police and that he had hopes for better community cohesion as he believed that there was a more "Live and Let Live Spirit" around.

MJF Co-Chairperson, Jonny Wineberg, stated, “The opportunity given by the Muslim Jewish Forum for our members and friends to meet with the Chief Constable shows the importance we place on building cohesion throughout our communities. We look forward to the police following the positive agenda outline by Peter Fahy in engaging with our communities and celebrating diversity.”

MJF Secretary Heather Fletcher gave a vote of thanks.

Photo-of-Chief-constable-addressing-the-Muslim-Jewish-Forum

The Chief Constable from every angle, thanks to image processing!

 

 

 

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Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Greater Manchester

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