Empowering agents of change across young Black communities in London
Friday 9th February 2024
This week (5-9th February) marks Race Equality Week, a UK-wide initiative uniting thousands of organisations and individuals to address race equality barriers in the workplace.
Detective Constable Parveen Raheeman of the Metropolitan Police Service tells us about her work on Elevated Aspirations, a programme aimed at improving the trust and confidence of young Black communities in policing across London, encouraging them to consider a career with the police, and facilitating two-way learning between the Met and the communities they serve.
The project, which started in 2021, is run by Elevated Minds CIC with support from the Metropolitan Police Service, parents, family and educators. It involves personal development workshops delivered by community leaders, two-weeks of work experience within the Metropolitan Police and individual life coaching sessions. The 13-week programme is aimed at students finishing secondary school, with a particular focus on young Black people; but is open to all and fosters positive discussion amongst the peer group, communities and officers.
The impact of the programme has been far reaching with participants going on to join the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) and a parent of one of the participants deciding to join the force.
After 18 years of service within the Metropolitan Police Service, DC Raheeman completed Police Now’s Frontline Leadership Programme in 2023 – a one year course designed to improve leadership skills and prepare officers for promotion. She explained that the programme had been hugely beneficial in equipping her with the skills to effectively deliver this project.
Detective Constable Parveen Raheeman said: “I was invited to get involved in the Elevated Aspirations programme shortly after the idea was conceived in 2021. Having worked on investigations concerning the exploitation of young people, I’m passionate about ensuring young people are given every opportunity to learn and develop and are instilled with the knowledge that they can achieve anything. Having previously delivered sessions in schools and to young Muslim women about the impact you can make as a police officer, I instantly thought this was a fantastic idea.
“The aim of the project is to build trust and confidence between the police and young people, especially from Black communities, by creating opportunities for them to gain an insight into various aspects of policing, interact with police officers in a professional context, and become agents of change for their communities. A key part of this is the two insight weeks that the students spend with the Met, and I’ve been heavily involved in delivering this. For example, I directed a short mock burglary film, put together a mock case file and led sessions for the students on how to review evidence, interviewing techniques and at the end, the students would interview the ‘suspects’, being thoroughly challenged by the ‘suspects’ solicitors. Last year, I even invited some law students from a high-profile trial I was working on at the time to play the role of the solicitors. They also had the opportunity to hear from the Crown Prosecution Service and to meet the judges at the Inner London Crown Court.
“The results of the programme have been incredible, with the vast majority of students describing how the programme changed their mindset and attitude towards the police and the criminal justice system, but also how it helped them to understand themselves better and be more confident and positive about the future. Many parents reported seeing these changes in their children, too.
“What’s more, the programme has been a real success in helping these young people see the difference they could make by joining the police, with some of the young people signing up to the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) and others planning to join the force once they finish university. One parent even decided to join after seeing his child go through the programme!
“Since completing the programme, the young people have been empowered to speak up against issues affecting their communities. For example, last year some of them were involved in a debate on knife crime hosted by Eddie Nestor for BBC Radio London following the tragic death of a local schoolgirl. They have also been involved in supporting the Met to develop its response to online harm. I am immensely proud and impressed by the insight and dedication of all of them.
“The impact has been two-way, with our officers reporting the benefits of working with young people, and crucially, gaining a deeper understanding about the struggles of the Black community.
“I am grateful to the supporters of this programme, though it’s a challenge helping run the project on top of my day job, and securing the funding isn’t guaranteed. We don’t get paid to do this or have ringfenced time, but I do it because it’s important to me. The programme is having a real impact on young people’s lives and is a clear example of how we can break down barriers into policing for these underrepresented communities, so I really hope that we can keep doing it.
“Beyond the programme, I sit on cultural and diversity boards across the Met, and the Positive Steps Mentoring Network (PSMN), aiming to increase representation of officers and staff from under-represented groups in all areas of the force, in particular, managerial positions, and moving towards a workforce that looks and feels like London. As a hijab-wearing female police officer, and a single-mum of children with neuro-diverse needs, it’s important for me to use my voice, so I am involved in a lot, and I challenge where I can.
“The Frontline Leadership Programme was one of the best training courses I’ve had throughout my nearly 19 years in the police service. I met an incredible cohort of kind and committed peers, alongside whom I felt like we were really leading from the front, to transform communities and build trust and confidence in our police service. I would recommend it to anyone who aligns with their mission and am always impressed by those who have come through the route.
Detective Constable Parveen Raheeman completed the Frontline Leadership Programme last year and works in the Lewisham Homicide Team as a homicide detective. She has been successful in the recent sergeant’s process and awaits posting as a Detective Sergeant, a well-deserved promotion.