Building Bridges: restoring public trust and confidence through challenging conversations
Tuesday 28th November 2023
Police Constable Lydia Wong joined the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in 2018 via Police Now’s National Graduate Leadership Programme and plays a lead role in the force’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equality (IDE) initiative ‘Discussions Matter’.
The initiative has seen a suite of internal videos featuring MPS officers and staff discussing experiences related to diversity and wellbeing, with the aim of breaking down barriers to foster open conversations and encourage nuanced understanding of IDE.
In their latest project, ‘Discussions Matter: Building Bridges’, the team are taking their videos public in a new three-episode series, each tackling an important issue related to policing. The series has brought together police officers and members of the public from London’s diverse communities for filmed roundtable discussions, facilitated by British TV presenter Angellica Bell.
The first 40-minute episode on race recently launched on the MPS YouTube channel and focused on race and policing. The next two episodes will focus on LGBTQ+ and women.
Lydia tells us more about how her time with Police Now inspired her to get involved with IDE initiatives and the Discussions Matter project.
Police Constable Lydia Wong
“As an individual, Inclusion, Diversity & Equality (IDE) cuts to the heart of who I am. I embody multiple protected characteristics and exist within intersectionality, so this has always been an area of interest for me. But I’d say in many ways my journey started with Police Now.
“I joined Police Now after a career in corporate law, having studied law at university. I quickly realised my interests lie in supporting the public and making a difference to people’s everyday lives, so I decided to leave corporate law. I came across Police Now and loved its emphasis on building public trust and confidence and improving diversity in policing; it felt exactly like the opportunity I’d been waiting for. A few months later, I got a notification to say I had successfully secured a place on Police Now’s programme – it felt almost like it was meant to be.
“While I was on the programme, I was asked by the then Chief Operating Officer Joni Nelson-Ferns to be involved in Police Now’s Diversity & Inclusion Board, having previously been a student representative on Police Now’s Board of Trustees. I developed a great working relationship with Joni, a successful woman of mixed Asian heritage, who invested in me and empowered me as an Asian woman to be confident in my policing career and tackle things that matter to me. I am passionate about representation within policing, in particular of East Asians who are heavily underrepresented, but equally for all minority groups (such as the LGBTQ+ community and individuals who are neurodiverse), because when you lift up one group, you lift up everyone.
“I now work in Specialist Operations Command, but I started getting involved in ‘Discussions Matter’ last year. The project lead, Detective Inspector Rasheed Alawiye, established the original project in 2020, bringing together staff from different backgrounds to discuss important topics within MPS and policing more widely, from disability and childcare to the Casey report.
“Recognising my passions for IDE, Rasheed invited me to get involved in growing the project, looking at how we could support the Commissioner to rebuild public trust and confidence. We’re a two-person team, but the project has evolved massively since 2020 and we’re really excited about ‘Building Bridges’.
“Our aim for ‘Building Bridges’ is to create an open and non-tokenistic platform for critical voices and honest opinions. Police officers listen to our communities every day to learn how we can make meaningful change, but the wider public don’t always get to hear about, or contribute to, these conversations. We hope that by having these frank and difficult discussions publicly, we can demonstrate our real commitment to community engagement, facilitate multilateral dialogues, listen to and prioritise what matters to the public, and continue the journey to rebuild public trust and confidence in policing.
“We know this is just the beginning, and only a small part of a much larger cycle of reform and change, but we really look forward to where we can take this project in the future.”
DI Rasheed Alawiye said: “It’s an integral part of building back trust with communities that we have these challenging conversations with the public in a way that doesn’t feel performative. That means having honest and often uncomfortable exchanges with particularly those with the lowest confidence in the police, such as ethnic minorities, women and the LGBTQ+ community.”
You can access the episode on the MPS YouTube channel here.