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Police help group is badly received

A ROW has broken out over a new group set up to help Bexley police.

The borough's Independent Advisory Group (IAG) was launched at Bexley's civic offices last week, with the mayor, Bexley Council leader Councillor Chris Ball and borough commander Chief Superintendent Robin Merrett all on the platform.

But the newly-formed group was given a hostile reception from members of the Police/Community Consultative Group (PCCG) when its launch was announced at its meeting that same evening.

The new groups were proposed in the Macpherson report, produced after the death of Stephen Lawrence, and are considered by the Met Police as "best practice." They act as "a critical friend" to police, giving practical advice on tactical policing decisions during serious incidents.

At the PCCG meeting following the launch, former chairman and Tory Councillor Val Clark questioned why the PCCG was no longer considered a "critical friend" and why it was neither consulted nor told about the creation of the new group in Bexley.

Fellow Tory councillor and PCCG member Nigel Betts pointed out while the PCCG represented a wide range of community groups, the IAG was mainly an ethnic minority membership.

"It is saying you do not value our (PCCG) contribution, that you have no confidence in us, and I find that insulting,"

he told Chief Supt Merrett.

Former Bexley Neighbourhood Watch chief and former borough commander John Black said he could not see what the IAG could do the PCCG couldn't. "There seems to be a proliferation of organisations all discussing the same things," he said.

Deputy mayor Cllr Harbans Singh Buttar asked Chief Supt Merrett to "nip the IAG in the bud and let the PCCG function properly".

Chief Supt Merrett defended the IAG saying it was an attempt to broaden the police's contact with the public and is a "valuable extra" to the PCCG. He said it would be involved with all incidents not just racial ones.

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