Brent Police attacked for sending out 'attend this meeting or be branded a criminal' letters to 24 men
PUBLISHED: 06:45 10 September 2015 | UPDATED: 10:34 10 September 2015
Police have been slammed for sending a letter to a group of men telling them they will be labelled as a criminal unless they attended a special meeting.
The letters were sent to 24 young men living in the South Kilburn area in connection to a stabbing in Kilburn High Road last month.
Officers warned the recipients and their families that if they failed to attend the meeting on August 27 their absence would be evidence they intended to continue with a life of violent criminality.
Signed by Chief Superintendent Michael Gallagher, Brent Police borough commander, it stated: “Our intelligence suggests you are linked to gang related criminal activity in the South Kilburn Area…
“If you choose not to attend we will see this as a clear message that you intend to continue with a criminal lifestyle.
“As such, we will work hard to disrupt your activities utilising every legitimate means available to us.”
Out of the 24 people sent the letter, six attended including two who turned up with their parents.
Roy Croasdaile, chairman of the Brent Stop and Search Monitoring Group, said: “I was not comfortable with the letter. I was the first person to amend and send feedback from a young man with regard to the ambiguity and offence that was taken.
“After all, it was meant to be an invitation to obtain support and was received as threatening. We have all learned lessons from this for the future and I would like to think that this will not be repeated.”
The letter has been linked to the hardline policing strategy of ‘collective punishment’ brought in by the New York Police-inspired Operation Shield being rolled out in neighbouring boroughs.
Sujata Aurora from the Brent anti-racism campaign, which represented some of the young men, said the letter had upset some of the men who had received it.
She added: “This is really quite pernicious. They’re saying we believe you are involved in this criminal activity on the basis of flimsy evidence and if you don’t attend we have the green light to harass you. It’s very inappropriate.”
A spokesman for Brent Police said: “The letter was deliberately strongly worded to make an impact and aimed to leave gang members in no doubt what awaits them if they continue with their current behaviour.
“These meetings are about support and diversion. If gang members are deterred from their violent criminality then the meetings are considered to be a success.”
Cllr James Denselow, Brent Council’s lead member for stronger communities, added: “There are certainly lessons to learn about the tone of the letter but the aim, which was to offer the help of professionals who are specialists in diverting young people away from gang crime, is correct.”