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Gavin Hales @gmhales
, 33 tweets, 10 min read Read on Twitter
1. I've had a chance to read the new @StopWatchUK report by @PatrickWillia17 on the MPS #gangsmatrix. Some early reflections here, hope to write something more considered in due course.

Key Q for me: if the matrix was scrapped tomorrow, what would actually change?

2. I'll start by saying I think it is appropriate for police and other agencies to have a particular focus on gang/group violence, as long as it is only one lens through which violence is understood and addressed.
3. Key point for me: the significance of gang/group dynamics as risk mulitipliers, eg collective responsibility and revenge. Maybe the ‘gang’ label detracts from what are broader phenomena (especially in respect of 'associates')? #gangsmatrix
4. First thing to say re the research: it includes powerful testimony about experiences of violence in homes, neighbourhoods and schools (also of early police experiences, especially #stopsearch). Highlights violence as a means to avoid victimisation in that context. #gangsmatrix
5. It deserves to be read and reflected on seriously. Eg how can policing mitigate the perception/trust risks that arise when interacting with children/teens, including when they are witnesses to the policing of others, eg parents and relatives? #gangsmatrix
6. It’s clear the interviewees have considerable experience of violence as both victims and perpetrators. I didn’t get the sense they were wrongly of interest to the police and others. #gangsmatrix
7. On the other hand, I'm unconvinced by the case against the #gangsmatrix advanced in the report – I just don’t think it is sufficiently well evidenced (and I'm no champion of the #gangsmatrix).
8. Some initial thoughts.

No regard is given to the police and partner agency side of the coin; the #gangsmatrix seems often to blamed on the basis of supposition; and interviews come across as rather uncritical (though I accept that may be required to secure co-operation).
9. The links made to #stopsearch seem rather tenuous, though I understand concerns about the use of the powers (if not wholly agreeing w them). It shld be poss to discover exactly how often people on the #gangsmatrix are SS-ed & how that compares to other groups/individuals.
10. Scrutiny would examine whether the #stopsearch-es are lawful or otherwise. Away from the report, I'd suggest there is a debate to be had about the use of s1 SS as a deterrent, and arguably the policing of cannabis possession (in particular) as a means to achieve that.
11. So to the key Q for me: if the #gangsmatrix was scrapped tomorrow, how much would actually change? What’s the counterfactual?
12. I imagine intel wld still be collected & shared x-agencies; these young men wld still receive particular attention fr police; & concerns abt the risks of them being victimised/drawn into violence – reflected eg in evidence about housing decisions – would still be expressed.
13. Are current approaches incl #stopsearch ‘effective’? The report says not. What’s the counterfactual & how should we define ‘effective’? Do they eliminate violence – no. Do they reduce it – & enough to justify the harms that result? We don’t know definitively. #gangsmatrix
14. Another key Q: how many of the tactics and strategies criticised in the report are uniquely used against individuals listed on the #gangsmatrix? In other words, is the problem really the existence of the Matrix?
15. Intel and data sharing between partner agencies are generally considered ‘good practice’ and seen across a range of policy areas: child protection, domestic violence/public protection etc. That has never required the consent of the subject. #gangsmatrix
16. Lists of ‘priority nominals’ are common in policing, across different crime types, eg burglary. They will generally be managed in boroughs/BCUs and receive no attention externally.
17. Achilles heel type tactics: do ethics need to be more publicly debated? Shld families be collateral/leverage in addressing offending behaviour of individs (do the ends justify the means)? Implications for messages abt lawful conduct etc if perceptions of profound unfairness?
18. Worth noting the role of *fear* in the lives of the interviewees: the state is not able to fully protect them. Is enough done to address that fear?
19. There may be much more that police forces could do to offer transparency about exactly what is recorded on the #gangsmatrix, how decisions about risk are made, and how predictive the risk scoring actually is. The public interest lies in securing consent and legitimacy.
20. What assurances can be offered about the use of intelligence? How critically is it assessed, what are the oversight mechanisms, checks and balances? What if it’s wrong or only partial – esp if being used to inform decisions about education, housing etc? #gangsmatrix
21. Are the risks of ‘ecological fallacy’ sufficiently well recognised – to what extent are individuals being labelled because of where they live & who their peers are? Is there a particular issue around the ‘associates’ label? What consequences result, are they lawful, fair?
22. In terms of the risk management paradigm: what are the balances in terms of individual agency (someone's ability to make their own decisions)? If someone wants to live in place A, but police and partners think there are risks if he does so, whose final decision should it be?
23. What if it’s a school, which has responsibilities towards the whole school community? Are decisions denying access to those on the #gangsmatrix maliciously curtailing opportunities, or trying to keep people safe in difficult circumstances? Could it be done better/differently?
24. We should ask about the legal oversight, appeals mechanisms etc., especially if the possibility exists (as it surely must) that some intelligence is wrong, or wrongly interpreted. Is the interpretation of intelligence sufficiently critical?
25. To what extent does all of this prioritisation and risk assessment underpin a holistic approach that offers carrots as well as sticks? It’s clear many of those interviewed suffered greatly from exposure to violence – we might argue many may be victims as much as perpetrators.
26. The report emphasises enforcement, and although references are made to support being offered these are given little prominence and in some cases are framed as coercive practices. #gangsmatrix
27. Accusations of a ‘police state’ and the use of ‘extreme violence exerted by the police’ seem polemical and unhelpful and not well evidenced.
28. To wrap up. There’s a lot in this research. Much needs careful reflection and certainly not the instinctive rejection I’ve seen from some on Twitter. That said, I’m not (yet) convinced that the case is made for scrapping the #gangsmatrix...
29. ...but I do think there are strong grounds for much greater transparency on the part of the Met and for many of the ethical complexities to be discussed much more openly. #gangsmatrix
30. To the key Q I posed at the start: if the matrix was scrapped tomorrow, what would actually change? I’m not sure very much would.
31. Thanks for reading what are only early reflections, and which I will reflect further on and may well rethink over time. As I said hope to write something more considered in due course.

Do let me know what you think.

[Ends for now]
32. To add, following interesting offline discussions:

There are clearly very well informed people in policing - ie regular users of the #gangsmatrix - who share the view reform could improve the use of the matrix & its wider legitimacy, & address limitations/problems. >>
33. It's also clear there are some v good ideas for what those reforms might consist of. A Q for the MPS is how they can harness those ideas, and whether they could be brought into the public debate? #gangsmatrix
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