Over the summer, the Museum of Policing in Devon and Cornwall has been working on a partnership audio archive project with Black Voices Cornwall (BVC).
While the project is still in the discussion stage, and we hope to submit a funding application in the near future to finance it, we’re really excited about this project. BVC is an organisation with a vision to enable Cornwall to become Actively Anti-Racist, and was set up following the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. They aim to help people from the BAME community and tackle the problems of inequality that many face in Cornwall. You can find out more about BVC here.
Historically, the lives and experiences of BAME communities have been marginalised and ignored in historical narratives. This is reflected in many of the collections held by museums, archives and libraries across the world. As a museum, we recognise that our collections have been collated by, and tended to document, those in privileged positions. In preserving the experiences of those who have served in the Devon & Cornwall Police, we acknowledge that those serving have largely been white. Data on workforce diversity from December 2020 shows that 79.2% of police officers in the Devon & Cornwall Police are white, compared to 1.3% of BAME police officers. (1.2% of police officers preferred not to say, and 18.3% were unknown.) 
The voices of BAME individuals and communities, and the ways in which they experience policing are not currently documented in our collections, despite recent studies showing that there is an over-policing of BAME communities. Devon & Cornwall Police have recently released statistics for April 2020 to March 2021 which show that a black person is 3.3. times more likely to be a victim of crime compared to a white person, and 11.4 times more likely to be stopped and searched.  In response to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, Devon & Cornwall Police launched a new drive to combat discrimination in policing after listening to the concerns and experiences of people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
The proposed project with BVC will record and document individual and community experiences of policing and the justice system in Cornwall. We hope to launch the project as a longitudinal study and record the voices of Cornwall’s ethnically diverse communities. In doing so, this would enable us to understand policing through their eyes. By recording the interviews in 12-month intervals for a maximum of 3 years, this would allow us to monitor how/in what ways participants relationship with policing may change over time, and how this might tie into the broader global movement pushing for greater equality in the justice systems of modern democracies like ours.
We hope that our future partnership with BVC will provide a space for Cornwall’s ethnically diverse communities to document their experiences of policing. This proposed project forms part of the museum’s broader aim to push the boundaries of what a modern police museum is, and preserve the voices of those who have traditionally been unrepresented. The audio archive project with BVC will play an integral role in this, and we look forward to working with them in the near future.
- ^ Devon & Cornwall Police, 12 April 2021, ‘Equality information and reports’, https://www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/your-right-to-information/our-people/departments/equality-diversity/equality-information-and-reports (accessed 22 September 2021)
- ^ Devon & Cornwall Police, 15 July 2021, ‘Disproportionality statistics’, https://www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/your-right-to-information/our-people/departments/equality-diversity/disproportionality-statistics (accessed 22 September 2021)