Redbridge’s first-ever faith liaison police officer reflects on new start

Redbridge Police Station, in High Road, Ilford

Redbridge Police Station, in High Road, Ilford - Credit: Archant

Sarah Scannell, the borough’s first-ever faith liaison police officer, has a clear idea how to go about her job even though she has no predecessor from whom she can seek advice.

Redbridge faith liaison officer Sarah Scannell dressed in a sari before attendng a Sikh wedding in S

Redbridge faith liaison officer Sarah Scannell dressed in a sari before attendng a Sikh wedding in Seven Kings. - Credit: Archant

Repeatedly, she refers to the need to raise “awareness” about her role serving as a link between faith communities and the police.

Appointed in September, this week marks her sixth month in the job and she brought the Recorder up to speed on the challenges so far.

“My work is based around the faith calendar, for example, around Eid [when members of the Muslim community often wear their jewellery during celebrations], we are obviously raising awareness about Asian gold crime.

“There are constant messages I can put out to people that are relevant to their community.”

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Miss Scannell, who holds no religious belief, said most of her time is spent building contacts within the richly diverse faith network in Redbridge.

Although she concedes in some quarters attitudes to the police work against her, she is trying hard to reverse this.

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Many opinions of the police, though, have been cultivated many miles from Redbridge.

“I gave a talk to one congregation,” she said. “I think initially people were a bit dubious about the police being there. That is what we are up against.

“In this country we have got a diverse community and people have opinions about what the police are like back home. We’re trying to break down those barriers.”

She is also working with faith leaders to tackle domestic violence.

She said: “I think sometimes it is frowned upon to bring your spotlight onto your family. There are a lot of things kept under wraps because of that.

“My immediate concerns are working out how we help victims of domestic abuse.””

On a day-to-day basis she will mostly conduct her work alone, although she can, she said, call on police officers to help her with certain cases.

Not that she minds working solo.

“I get to get involved in so many things,” she smiled.

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