Police encountered use ‘racially discriminatory’ Gangs Matrix database

The Metropolitan Police Service’s ‘gang matrix’ is the ‘wrong tool for the wrong problem’ Amnesty International said today, publishing a damning report in the little-known Gang Mapping Database.

The 55-page report, Trapped in the Matrix, raises serious concerns about how individuals are placed in the database, how information is shared with other agencies such as housing associations and schools, and the negative effect that the inscription on the matrix may have for young black men who are disproportionately affected. The researchers spoke with more than 30 professionals who use the gang matrix, including police and other organizations, as well as community members and young people affected by the matrix.

The Gang Matrix

The Metropolitan Police Service’s gang mapping database, known as the Gangs Matrix, was launched in 2012 as part of a highly politicized response to the 2011 London riots. It lists individuals as ” gang names,” each given an automated violence rating of green, amber, or red. As of October 2017, 3,806 people were on the matrix. More than three-quarters (78%) of people on The Matrix are black, a disproportionate number given the Met’s own figures which show that only 27% of those responsible for serious youth violence are black. The youngest person on the matrix is ​​12 years old and 99% of the people listed are male.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said:

“There is clearly a huge problem with stabbing violence at the moment in London, but the gang matrix is ​​not the answer. It’s part of an unnecessary and racialized focus on the concept of gangs. Simply put , it’s the wrong tool for the wrong problem.

“The whole system is racially discriminatory, stigmatizing young black men for the type of music they listen to or their behavior on social media, and perpetuating racial prejudice with potential impacts in all sorts of areas of life. their life.

“Some police have acted like they’re in the Wild West, making false assumptions that they can create fake profiles and secretly befriend people online to surveil them without needing the proper search warrants. .

“The Mayor of London must dismantle the Matrix unless he can bring it into line with international human rights standards.”

The “G-word”: an unnecessary and racialized focus on the concept of gang

The concept of “the gang” and gang member, or “nominal,” is vague and ill-defined, and based on racialized notions, according to the report. Police have raised concerns with Amnesty researchers about the conflation of gang crime and serious youth violence, although in reality there is not as much overlap as assumed . The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime found that more than tHan 80% of all knife crime incidents resulting in injury to a victim under the age of 25 in London were deemed to be non-gang related.

A Met Police officer told Amnesty:

“Gangs are, for the most part, a complete red herring… fixation on the term is unnecessary on any level.”

the the vagueness of the ‘gang’ label and the wide latitude given to officers to assign it means that the gang label is used haphazardly. In practice, it is disproportionately attributed to black men and boys, even when an individual’s delinquent profile is otherwise the same as that of a white individual who is not so labeled. This reflects a historical pattern of over-surveillance of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) communities.

Stafford Scott, of The monitoring groupa London-based campaign organization that challenges racism in policing, argues that the gang matrix is ​​counterproductive and further erodes trust and legitimacy in the police.

He told Amnesty:

“Our community needs a police department to stop the killings, but the community won’t engage with the police if they don’t stop coming up with oppressive forms. The Matrix reaffirms to the community that there is an institutionalized racist way to keep order. It doesn’t work, it only further marginalizes this group of children.

Climb on the matrix

The report reveals a chaotic and inconsistent approach to how individuals are entered on the matrix, which varies wildly from borough to borough in London. The report warns that the threshold for being added to the matrix is ​​very low, requiring only two items of “verifiable intelligence” with no clear guidelines or criteria, while very wide discretion is granted to both the police and various other agencies. “Partner agencies” – including housing associations, job centers and borough-level youth services – can also suggest names to add to the gang matrix.

People who have never been involved in violent crimes are regularly registered in the gang matrix. Even being the victim of a crime which the police associate with a gang is considered by the Metropolitan Police to be an indicator of a likelihood of “later being drawn into involvement in a serious crime” and can therefore result in the placement of the individual on the matrix. .

Social media monitoring and racial profiling of young black men

The report raises serious concerns about the practice of monitoring the behavior of young people online to determine their possible gang affiliation. YouTube video sharing and other social media activity are used as potential criteria for adding names to the matrix, with grime music videos featuring gang names or signs considered a particular possible indicator of an affiliation likely to a gang. Amnesty research raises concerns that people are therefore being profiled and monitored by police anti-gang units simply because of the subculture they belong to and the people they associate with online.

Amnesty’s research has uncovered cases of police creating fake social media profiles to monitor people they consider to be possible gang members. This practice may, in some cases, be contrary to the law on the regulation of investigative powers (RIPA). Amnesty researchers have learned that on at least one occasion no RIPA warrant was obtained before undercover operations were carried out. One official even said he thought such a warrant was unnecessary because the profile created was tied to a council modem.

The report concludes that in the case of police officers “friending” or otherwise establishing an online relationship with a potential person of interest, covert authorization from a human intelligence source (a warrant) is clearly required. Amnesty is calling on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to urgently review the operation and use of Matrix by police and others.

Share the matrix with other agencies

The report found that a range of non-policing agencies have access to the Matrix, and thus the stigma of suspicion or guilt associated with inclusion in the Matrix can follow individuals throughout their interaction with a wide range of local services, including with employment centres, housing associations and schools.

Sharing data can lead to negative outcomes in other areas of an individual’s life, such as their access to housing, a former housing officer, and a staff member of a borough gang-fighting unit describing issuing eviction notices as a routine tactic used to pressure a ‘nominal’. This not only affects matrix members but, in the case of housing, also their siblings and other family members. Again, these negative impacts disproportionately affect young black boys and men.

Amnesty is particularly concerned that sharing the matrix widely with partner agencies raises a number of conflicts with data protection law and the accompanying code of conduct and guidelines.

Trapped on the matrix

Officials reported general pressure from police in anti-gang units to “keep people on” the matrix in case they later commit a violent offence. The report found that the processes surrounding the review of inclusion on the matrix were inadequate given the sensitivity of the data held, including on children as young as 12 years old.

Amnesty is calling on the ICO to urgently open a full public investigation into Matrix and its use, including its compliance with data protection laws. Amnesty is also calling on the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to address concerns raised in the report, with a view to abandoning the Matrix if it cannot be brought into line with international human rights standards.

About Florence L. Silvia

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