West Yorkshire's new deputy mayor Alison Lowe calls for more 'humanitarian approach to policing'
The new deputy mayor of West Yorkshire has called for a "more humanitarian approach to policing" and says she wants to build trust between officers and the black community.
Alison Lowe was appointed to the position at a meeting on Friday, after being nominated by the region's elected mayor, Tracy Brabin, to oversee policing and crime in West Yorkshire.
Ms Lowe was Leeds' first ever black female councillor when she was elected to represent the Armley area of the city in 1990. She held that position for 29 years and also served as the chair on West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Panel between 2012 and 2019.
For the last 17 years she's also been the chief of the mental health charity Touchstone, a position she will leave to take up the role of deputy mayor.
Outlining her credentials to West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Panel, Ms Lowe explained how she'd been a conduit between the police and Black Lives Matter this month, when footage of a black man being pepper sprayed by officers in Leeds city centre surfaced.
Communicating with both sides helped to "calm" the situation, she said.
Speaking to the panel, which unanimously approved her appointment, she said: "People came together to talk about what had happened, and there was a small vigil held at the spot where this man had been arrested.
"I think we massively managed to reduce the potential for disruption that could have happened, had we not intervened in the way that we did."
Ms Lowe said the relationship between police and people was a "two-way street" and spoke of her desire to increase the number of visible neighbourhood officers.
She also said she wanted to build bridges between the police and the black community.
She said: "As people change their views of the police, the police need to change their views of people.
"We need a more humanitarian approach to policing, I think. We need to have a different conversation.
"The police are part of our communities. Let's remind them of that.
She added: "Being a black person (as deputy mayor) in West Yorkshire, at a time when we have the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of George Floyd, is a really important statement to the people of West Yorkshire.
"We've talked for years about how black satisfaction (with the police) is lower than white satisfaction.
"This is a step in the right direction for creating that trust and that new conversation."
Ms Lowe said she was also committed to improving outcomes for victims of rape and sexual violence.
"We know that when they come forward, the response they get, both from the police and the system is not good enough," she told the meeting on Friday.
"Often we get into a rut, thinking we're great and we're doing everything we can, and we don't check in with the people who know best, and that's the women, girls and men who are the victims of sexual violence."
Local Democracy Reporting Service