‘If they are not treating people right then they need to be held accountable’ – The south London mentor fighting for police reform
“What we have been dealing with is traumatic experience after traumatic experience which has been passed down through generations. This is something that we have been talking about for years.”
Sayce Holmes-Lewis 37, a community mentor turned public speaker, has been a powerful voice in the ongoing conversation surrounding police reform and entrenched racism in the UK.
Mr Holmes-Lewis was thrust into the limelight after posting a video to Twitter which went viral documenting an incident where he was unduly stopped and searched by police under the Section 23 Misuse of Drugs Act.
Despite working as a dedicated community mentor for the last 21 years, Mr Holmes-Lewis has been racially profiled and stopped more than 30 times in his life, four of which have been since lockdown began Monday March 23.
Now, he is meeting with government advisors and police inspectors to introduce a new training program to the Met Police – spearheaded by his mentoring organisation Mentivity.
Mr Holmes-Lewis said: “I’m not going to let this rest until the training program is implemented with the met police, and they apologise to me and to others across London for their over-zealous and criminal treatment of innocent black British citizens.
“Until we do that, we’re always going to face this problem.”
So this happened to me last week and I debated at length whether or not I share this widely. I spoke with my family extensively, watched the video over and over again and mulled it over for seven days… pic.twitter.com/N3rfkCOGlu— Sayce Holmes-Lewis (@sholmeslewis) May 12, 2020
His demands come as stop and searches increased by 45% between April 2019 and April 2020, with black people nine times more likely to be stopped than their white counterparts.
Founded four years ago, Mentivity currently operates in 16 schools across London and one in Brighton delivering early intervention for students and teacher training around conscious bias, equity, and education.
The video showing the murder of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, by a police officer in Minnesota, USA reignited the Black Lives Matter movement which has been shining a light on racially motivated police brutality and racism more widely.
Mr Holmes-Lewis said: “I avoided watching the George Floyd video for a long time.
“I don’t want to see someone dying. Someone that looks like me and could be me.”
Mr Holmes-Lewis partially attributes his recent success orchestrating meetings with Met police officials to social media: “If we didn’t have social-media I don’t think we’d be seeing a lot of the stuff which has been happening. It’s been instrumental.”
He believes another key factor has been the empathy bred by Covid-19 which has forced people to slow down and assess the world around them, bringing injustice sharply into focus.
There are three strands to the proposed program.
Mr Holmes-Lewis said: “The police are not above the law, they are here to enforce it. They are here to serve the people and if they are not treating the people right then they need to be held accountable.”
Mr Holmes-Lewis has urged the community to engage in conversation with people they normally would not associate with and to take the time to educate themselves on racial issues.
“What we’re trying to do is create a better environment for our young people to flourish no matter what colour or background they are.
“If we don’t come together, we’re going to be divided forever.”
To support the work Mentivity are doing, donate to their JustGiving page by clicking here.