Open Letter to SAMEE - What have the Police bought from you?

Policing the classroom

To: Members, Colleagues and Friends of the The Scottish Association of Minority Ethnic Educators (SAMEE)

SAMEE has been heavily funded by the police. What exactly are the police getting for their money?

A response has been received from SAMEE and is included at the end of this article.

SAMEE’s accounts for the year ending 31 December 2015 show that a grant of £5000 was received from Police Scotland. Accounts for 2016 are not yet available. The police grant is said in SAMEE’s financial statement to have been the main source of funding for that year, and it is indeed the only receipt listed there. SAMEE's expenditure in 2015 was £2026.92, so the police grant was presumably used to fund activities in 2016 too.The grant is listed under “unrestricted funds”, but SAMEE’s nearly total dependence on police funding raises serious questions.

SAMEE’s website says that “SAMEE will create opportunities for minority ethnic educators and parents to influence government education policy at a local and Scottish level. It appears, on the contrary, that SAMEE has created opportunities for Police Scotland to influence minority ethnic educators and parents.

Working with police will inevitably expose SAMEE to the pernicious Prevent strategy. This is acknowledged in an image posted on the SAMEE facebook page in December 2016, which includes Prevent amongst the names and logos of organisations and projects that SAMEE has worked with over the past year. I understand that SAMEE was helped in obtaining police funding by Detective Inspector Shaheen Baber, an officer with Prevent responsibilities.

Working with Prevent will at best expose people involved with SAMEE to government propaganda, and at worst expose them to police intelligence-gathering. Prevent is not a fit partner for any progressive organisation, and is particularly inappropriate for an organisation working with communities likely to be targeted by it.

SAMEE’s financial statement for 2015 says: “SAMEE liaised closely with Police Scotland to plan and deliver Internet safety workshops to targeted groups within the BME community in the Glasgow area.” The extensive interception, surveillance and hacking powers given to police under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 mean that the police are part of the threat to internet safety. It’s difficult to see how a workshop created through liaison with Police Scotland can give balanced and reliable advice on these matters.

I am sure you will be aware of the very widespread criticisms that have been made of Prevent. Prevent is Islamophobic, anti-democratic and manipulative, and is likely to be counter-productive in relation to its supposed aim of preventing people from being drawn into terrorism. Two recent reports covering Prevent in education – one by Rights Watch UK and one by the Open Society Justice Initiative – have recommended that Prevent should be scrapped with respect to the education sector.

A recent article by Dr Rizwaan Sabir of Liverpool John Moores University explains Prevent very well and concludes:

“...counter-terrorism policy is about excluding and pre-emptively incapacitating individuals and groups by drawing on sophisticated and highly coercive surveillance and propaganda practices targeted at not only those considered to be ‘future’ terrorists but those individuals and communities who speak through the ‘language of Islam’ (Sayyid, 2015). What this ultimately reveals is that the often-made distinction between Pursue and Prevent and combatant and civilian is, in practice, false. The use of ‘soft-power’ or ‘hearts and minds’ activity is also less about the persuading and ‘safeguarding’ of Muslims and more about disciplining and controlling those individuals choosing to exercise a distinct Muslim agency (Sayyid, 2010). Such an approach challenges the liberal claim that counter-terrorism policy is about social inclusivity and ‘safeguarding’ or that the UK is a multicultural, post-racial society in which the democratic government is transparent and accountable to the people.”

You may have been told by police that Prevent is different in Scotland. In fact, the statutory Prevent Duty Guidance for Scotland is the same as the guidance for England and Wales in all its essential elements. Insofar as there is a difference in the implementation of the strategy, it appears to be that much less effort is put into the Prevent Professional Concerns element of the strategy than into its England and Wales equivalent, the Channel programme (PPC and Channel are aimed at referring individuals, through a multi-agency conference or panel, to “de-radicalisation” activities). But Rizwaan Sabir’s analysis of Prevent’s coercive surveillance and propaganda practices applies just as forcefully to Scotland as to England and Wales.

Prevent is embedded in all aspects of policing in Scotland. No one who needs the essential services provided by the police can remain completely untouched by Prevent. But there is absolutely no reason for organisations doing work that would not normally be a police matter to enter into a relationship with the police or to accept police funding. And there is every reason to avoid doing so for organisations dealing with people amongst whom Prevent is trying to establish itself. If you work with Prevent, or work with police in circumstances where Prevent will be a priority for them, you are helping what Rizwaan Sabir describes as the “piercing of civil society” by the secret state.

I hope that SAMEE will refuse any further police funding, will dissociate itself from Prevent and will take vigorous steps to re-establish its hopelessly undermined independence.

Response from SAMEE

A response has been received from SAMEE. SAMEE offers no explanation for its inclusion of Prevent in the list of projects it has worked with in 2016. They say "SAMEE has engaged in dialogue with Scottish Government... around concerns raised by educators and parents regarding Prevent". So have I, but I wouldn't list Prevent as a project I have worked  with.

SAMEE say that the involvement of GTCS registered teachers (it is to be expected that SAMEE includes GTCS registered teachers) ensures balance in the internet safety workshops that they deliver in cooperation with police. They do not address the risks potentially arising from involving police in the workshops, which they have said are delivered to "targeted groups within the BME community", nor do they offer any assurance that the workshops provided advice on how to stay safe from police surveillance of internet usage. They do not address the other issues raised in the open letter, and do not offer any assurance that they will work to ensure their own independence from the police.

SAMEE response to the issues raised in the open letter to SAMEE:

We would like to take the opportunity to clarify that in 2015 we had the opportunity to apply for a Community Partnership Fund via Police Scotland. Our application was successful and the fund was used to deliver workshops for BME parents and young people to raise awareness of Internet Safety including the dangers of Cyber Bullying which affects many young people. The workshops were delivered by GTCS registered teachers, who are very aware of ensuring that a balanced and reliable approach is taken in the delivery of these workshops; one which is informed through rigorous, current research.

As SAMEE seeks to deliver its aims of supporting the BME community, we work hard to explore and apply for small funding opportunities. Successful funds received are used effectively to achieve our core aims and objectives - supporting BME young people, parents and teachers. Our development plan evolves in response to the needs of the community.

SAMEE has engaged in dialogue with Scottish Government on a number of issues such as Minority Ethnic recruitment in education, cyber safety, and also around concerns raised by educators and parents regarding Prevent. SAMEE is keen to engage in dialogue with any organisation in order to ensure that the interests of not only the BME community but all communities are best served.

SAMEE believes that positive and productive dialogue is the solution to community concerns and issues.

Kind Regards,
Scottish Charity No SC044452