Joelene to lead special police scrutiny panel

Portrait of woman leading police panel

Joelene Sciberras - Credit: Submitted

A Torquay woman is to lead a special police scrutiny panel of national importance. 

Devon and Cornwall Police are one of the few police forces in the UK to have recently made positive steps towards Stop and Search independent scrutiny. 

Despite official recommendations back in 2014 from the Home Office and College of Policing that all forces set up independent community scrutiny panels for Stop and Searches, only a few have successfully implemented independent, community panels. 

The recommendation was a result of the Macpherson report following the racially motivated murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence. It is felt much is still needed to re-establish trust with communities, especially those who are black, Asian, and minority ethnicities. 

The new Devon and Cornwall Community Scrutiny Panel has welcomed applications for new members, as well as appointing lead administrator Joelene Sciberras. 

Born and raised in Torquay, Joelene is a psychology graduate with experience working in education, healthcare and rehabilitation sectors.  

Torquay-based the Reverend Nathan Kiyaga  was instrumental in getting the panel set up and has chaired on-line scrutiny meetings. 

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He says: “As lead youth worker for a detached street-based project, Joelene regularly engages with local young people, which has given her an experience of Stop and Search procedures as well as current police-community relations. 

“Similar to reported surveys and case studies, her insight into young people’s perceptions of the police is disheartening, with the majority reporting a lack of trust and reluctance to call for help even if it was needed. 

“The fact that the majority of these young people self-identify as white, raises legitimate concerns for those young people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.  

“Not only are they unable to identify with our majority white police force, but according to Devon and Cornwall Police statistical data, members of the public who self-identify as black are 12.1 times more likely to be stopped and searched, despite representing only 0.2 per cent of the region’s population. 

“While we know many police officers conduct themselves professionally and do a good job, these disproportionality rates of 12.1 are one of the worst figures in the country and clearly cannot be justified, which is why the newly formed DCCS Panel is such an important step forward.” 

Panel members like Joelene are entirely independent from the police and represent UK demographics including those who are most likely to be stopped and searched. Members include parents, teachers, local business people -people from all walks of life, ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. 

During their online scrutiny meetings, the DCCS Panel assesses the data and selects body camera footage of Devon and Cornwall Police officers during Stop and Search procedures. This footage is objectively scrutinised in accordance with lawful standards and procedures - all practices that are good are celebrated, officers involved are informed and a report shared with the newly formed Police Legitimacy Board. Where there are any inconsistencies or potential abuses of power, the panel acts accordingly. 

As well as contributing to police scrutiny and writing reports, Joelene’s role within the panel is to support current and prospective members, raise awareness of the panel’s work and create an open line of communication for the local community. 

Father Nathan says: “Considering the younger generations perception of the police, her current focus is engaging with local sixth forms, colleges and universities. By linking up with these establishments, a greater understanding of front-line police work, public rights, and opportunities for proactive change can be established with both students and staff. 

“This past year, the levels of discrimination and bias ingrained in our country has been widely documented. During a pandemic, it can feel like our efforts to challenge prejudice and create an equal society are physically limited, but working with this panel is a real opportunity to make positive, practical steps to address inequality, support fair practice, and improve trust within our local community.” 

Anyone in Devon and Cornwall is welcome to join this panel as long as they are not holding an active role in policing or have not done so for at least 3 years. Those interested can contact us by email at dccspanel@gmail.com or via our Facebook page @dccspanel.