The chairman of a new panel that will scrutinise the police on race issues is a criminal defence barrister who has said her ‘ultimate aim’ is to end funding for forces.
Award-winning lawyer Abimbola Johnson, 34, has previously discussed crime being ‘reclassified’ until you ‘no longer need to fund a police force’.
She is one of three Labour supporters among six members on the new Independent Scrutiny and Oversight Board (ISOB) set up by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing.
It is part of a new action plan launched yesterday to tackle racism and racial disparity in policing – with the ultimate aim of ‘creating an anti-racist police service’.
Barrister Abimbola Johnson, 34, has previously discussed crime being ‘reclassified’
The board announced its six members this week, including Labour councillor Katrina Ffrench, 37, and Jeremy Corbyn supporter Nick Glynn, 54.
It also includes communications expert Colin Douglas, senior civil servant Ram Joshi and data scientist Rachael Grant.
Miss Johnson, who helped put together the team, previously defended calls to change police funding on Twitter in June 2020 during Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests that summer.
She said at the time that people needed to ‘engage and not react in knee-jerk fashion’, and suggested funds be diverted to other areas such as mental health services, after-school programmes and shelters.
‘Divert funds into other methods to tackle the causes of crime and even rethink what we classify as criminality in the first place. Until you no longer need to fund a police force,’ the barrister posted.
Katrina Ffrench, 37, has used her online profile to promote protests against ‘police impunity’
Miss Johnson, who said in her post that she is a Labour Party member, argued that people had the ‘wrong impression’ of the BLM movement.
In the Twitter conversation on June 29, 2020, she said the movement ‘is meant to make us think harder about how we could run a safe and fair society without the need for a police force’. In another tweet in response to a now-deleted post, she wrote: ‘Yes, the ultimate aim is to create a societal system that no longer needs the police. Or at least doesn’t need police forces in the sizes we have now.’
In more recent times she has tweeted in favour of ‘increasing funding’ to police forces instead of widening their powers. In March 2021, she said more funding would enable the police ‘to catch suspects and investigate crimes properly’. Meanwhile, fellow board member Miss Ffrench has used her online profile to promote protests against ‘police impunity’.
Mr Glynn has praised Jeremy Corbyn and attended events supporting the former Labour leader. He has also openly criticised the Conservatives on his social media.
Nick Glynn, 54, has praised Jeremy Corbyn and attended events supporting the former Labour leader
At the launch of the police’s race action plan yesterday, Miss Johnson said: ‘Speaking completely frankly, policing has never got this right, in terms of dealing with racial disparity. They either have made progress but not at a rate that they expected or they haven’t made any progress at all. The police need to do this themselves.
‘If they really do want to become an anti-racist organisation they need to put the work in, they need to develop these plans, and they need to make sure they implement them on a regional as well as a national scale.’ Kevin Hurley, a former Met Police officer who was crime commissioner for Surrey Police, said calls to end funding for the police were ‘naive, ignorant or stupid’ and the establishment of the new board was a ‘cop-out’.
He said: ‘For the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs’ Council to set this up is, in fact, a cop-out for them failing to discharge their own responsibilities as leaders, setting and maintaining the correct values and standards.’
A NPCC spokesman said the board members ‘were selected for their skills, expertise and experience in an open selection and recruitment process. Board members have committed to approach their roles in an impartial and non-partisan way.’
An ISOB spokesman said: ‘Abimbola Johnson is a respected barrister appointed and vetted by the NPCC… using an open and fair recruitment process. Your claim that Miss Johnson tweeted about an ultimate aim to defund the police is factually incorrect as is the conclusion you have drawn from the tweets.
‘There is no concern over board members’ professional or personal affiliations. The chair and each member of the board is committed to working respectfully with people from all political parties.’