Brian Paddick announced his departure from Lambeth from the steps of Brixton police station on 18 March. Within hours a campaign for his reinstatement was underway. The campaign cuts right across the diversity of the borough, old and young, left and right, gay and straight, from all walks of life. His support shows no ethnic bias and religious leaders of every denomination have expressed their scorn for his treatment. It is a coalition of disgust.
A public servant, striving and succeeding in meeting the needs of the community he serves, has been made the target of an unaccountable media campaign, driven by a political agenda;
A high achieving, gay public figure can still be subjected to a homophobic smear campaign;
A man stands accused of allegations which have been bought;
An attempt to focus the policing of drug abuse on the real killers - crack and heroin - has been reported with malign distortion.
Raising the Town Hall Roof
Packed public meetings are a rarity in this age of soundbite politics. .Brixton Town Hall, on March 26, was the exception. Exceptional for any politician, remarkable for a policeman, incredible for a policeman in Lambeth.
Over 400 people packed the hall, alternately listening attentively and cheering, as speaker after speaker denounced the naked injustice of Brian Paddick’s treatment by the press and demanding his reinstatement in Lambeth.
When Paddick addressed the meeting - “All I want is to do is to come back and serve the people of Lambeth” - he was rewarded with a standing ovation such as politicians would die for. Old Brixton hands were heard to mutter, “I never thought I’d see the day”.
5,000 People Can’t be Wrong
Right in the centre of Brixton, at the top of Coldharbour Lane, is a spit of paving usually occupied by evangelising preachers and their choirs, spreading the gospel to bemused shoppers and the occasional shifty dealer. But for several weekends in April, it was home to a trestle table, some pens and clipboards and some virgin-activist Paddick supporters.
If they were apprehensive of their reception, they needn’t have been. A steady stream queued to add their names to a petition for the reinstatement of Brian Paddick. Amd likewise in the pubs and clubs, the cafes and shops around Lambeth and (in the Big Issue) across London.
Six months on, and the support holds
Each year in July, Lambeth holds a “County Show” in Brockwell Park. It’s a traditional English show, with livestock imported for the event together with the full eccentricity of English country life, recreated in the Metropolis. This year, lambeth4paddick set up a stall. Over the two days, hundreds of people visited the stall to debate the issues and take away information. They were overwhelmingly supportive - especially those involved with the public services, including the police. Over 400 people chose to leave their comments in our “visitors book” and they are included in Lambeth Talk. Their support was in many cases deeply felt and passionate; dissenters could be counted on one hand. Lambeth has not forgotten Brian Paddick.
Meanwhile, Lambeth Community Police Consultative Group reiterated their support at their annual general meeting. These are people with many years experience of working with the police in Lambeth and a deep knowledge of the highs and lows of that relationship. Speaking for the Group, chair Lee Jasper described Paddick as “a refreshing and honest police officer who engaged well with the his community. He was a good commander who always spoke to the CPCG in an open and honest way. He contributed in no uncertain terms to maintaining a balance within our community”
Group member John Howard added “Brian Paddick is a brilliant officer and I hope he can return to his post soon”.
“There was a huge spontaneous cheer. It didn’t surprise me, because he has always regarded us in Brixton as allies, not as a means to furthering his career”
Mrs M., Brixton resident of 20 years
“A man stands accused in return for payment to his accuser...that is not a society in which I wish to live”
Rabbi James Baarden, Brixton
“Not only has he made a difference in Brixton, but he has shown how this metropolis should be policed in the future”
Reverend Ivelaw Bowman, Brixton Pastor
“All the talk in Brixton last Monday among the black population was that whenever a member of the establishment gives black people a helping hand, the rest of the establishment close ranks and get rid of him”
Darcus Howe, Broadcaster (Guardian)
Were you at the Town Hall meeting or did you sign the petition? Who do you think should decide who polices Lambeth - the people or the Daily Mail? Have your say in Lambeth Talk?
“Brian Paddick is a brilliant officer...he contributed in no uncertain terms to the balance within our community. ”
Lambeth Community Police Consultatative Group