Avon and Somerset Police have collaborated with Bristol’s first City Poet Miles Chambers and Bristol-based Media Producer Rob Mitchell, to bring a poem Miles wrote as part of the force’s Race Matters work, to life.
Miles wrote his poem ‘I want to be seen’ to share the different viewpoints and feelings that exist when race and policing are discussed, and to portray a vision for the future. The words of the poem include community voices, sharing people’s feelings about being stereotyped and what they want from their police service, alongside officers’ perspectives on why they do the job.
Miles Chambers said: “When I was first asked to write a poem for Avon and Somerset Police embracing the issues around police institutional racism and how they might change this perception, I had my reservations. I had my own experiences of police racial discrimination and am very aware of many other experiences and opinions within the Black community. Many don’t question the fact that Avon and Somerset Police are institutionally racist.
“Personally, I have been arrested for stealing my own bike, accused of selling drugs from my flat when they had the wrong address, and accused of staking out a café, with the intent to burgle it.
“These are just a few incidents that spring to mind. After considerable consultation and deliberation with ASP’s communications team, I concluded that they want to change. They want a better relationship with the Black community; want the Black community to see Avon and Somerset Police as their force, and to feel as included and supported as everyone else. So, I thought to myself, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
“This video, which came off the back of an original poem written for the Race Matters Conference Avon and Somerset Police held last year, is my attempt to discuss some of the concerns of the Black community and the reactions of officers, and to suggest an ideal which I would like to see become a reality. A reality which I believe Avon and Somerset Police would also like to realise.”
Assistant Chief Constable Will White, who leads Avon and Somerset Police’s Race Matters work said: “It’s vital for us and our communities to walk in each other’s shoes to understand different perspectives. We are grateful that Miles wrote this poem and worked with us to create this film, with the support of local director Rob Mitchell. It brings in to focus the people and the stories at the centre of the topic of race and policing.
“Miles’ words bring to life how it can feel when people have had bad experiences with policing. They also capture how it can feel to be the officers on the ground, who are working day in day out to serve, protect and respect the public.
“Miles and Rob were key in casting the right people to reflect the community voices that Miles captured in his poem. I hope it will be the beginning of lots of important conversations and that it will help us all to better understand what the vision of an anti-racist police service means and the work we need to do to achieve that.”
Inspector Serena Serjeant who features in the film said: “I was really inspired by the Miles Chambers poem. I saw it as an opportunity to continue to help influence change and make a difference not only for the community but for the police.
“By working together, we can create a momentum to improve lives, build trust and heal the legacy that is still ongoing. I want to see a future where my children won’t be having the same conversations about disproportionality and institutional racism and those conversations become part of our history and not our present.”