A police operation to win over black communities in London during the 1980s and 1990s could contain key lessons for Bahrain's law enforcement chiefs today...
BAHRAIN could learn from the UK's experience of mending relations between police and London's black community as it seeks to re-establish confidence in the nation's security services, according to one of the men recruited to advise the Interior Ministry on reform.
John Yates, former Assistant Commissioner at London's Metropolitan Police Service, admitted the biggest obstacle now facing Bahrain's police was restoring faith in the force following events of last year.
However, he said he was confident a raft of measures on the cards to dramatically revamp the police service would go a long way to repair an image that has been tarnished by allegations of mistreatment, abuse and even killings.
These include plans for a state-of-the-art forensics lab that would be the envy of police across the Middle East, a new unit to train criminal investigators, the setting up of an independent police complaints body and a beefing up of the community police service.
"The biggest obstacle is around community confidence in policing and community confidence in a fair and impartial police force that is delivering the law equally across the divide," Mr Yates told the GDN.
"That's what a great deal of the reforms we are introducing are about: does the community have confidence in its policing, its national security structures and all those issues?
"The answer to that is last year, no they didn't. As has been admitted terrible things happened, so the important thing is to rebuild that confidence and the steps that we are taking - be it independent complaints, much more independent investigative conclusions reached through forensic science and all that sort of stuff - will hopefully go some way to start that process."
However, the seasoned detective stressed that could not take place overnight.
"It will take time," he acknowledged. "In my experience of the UK and what the black community felt of policing in London in the late 80s and early 90s there was no trust, no confidence, people had been treated unfairly, there was stop and search - but then we had a Macpherson Inquiry and before that a thing called Operation Trident, which was a specifically designed approach to helping solve crime in black communities.
"Through family liaison, witness confidence, victim confidence and a really, really dynamic investigative capability Operation Trident was probably the single biggest thing that restored confidence in policing in London in the black community because they saw that as a force for good.
"Something similar is going to work here.
"It's an approach: what can we do to increase the confidence of all the community in policing?
"These are the sorts of steps we are taking: new lab, proper CID training, independent police complaints, a good solid internal affairs department so people have confidence coming forward.
"What Operation Trident did was enable the black community to have confidence they could come forward and their information would be treated both sensitively and appropriately.
"It's an approach that worked really well and it may have some parallels (here)."
He said the true success of Bahrain's police reforms would be gauged by how confident people were in reporting allegations to authorities 12 months from now.
"What does success look like in a year's time?" he asked.
"That people will come forward and report things and have the confidence that allegations will be treated seriously and investigated thoroughly.
"That's a key part of John Timoney's and my work - to move to that position."
Mr Yates was brought in by Bahraini authorities in January to advise on police reform along with Mr Timoney, former chief of the Miami Police Department, who arrived in December.
They were appointed shortly after the findings of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), which was highly critical of the police force, were announced in November.
Mr Yates was brought in on a short-term contract that is due to expire in around two months, while Mr Timoney is here for two years.
The former said he had been impressed by the appetite for change among the Interior Ministry's top brass and revealed progress had already being made since he arrived.
"There have been a number of tactical things that have happened, both in the immediate aftermath of BICI - the National Security Agency (NSA) losing executive powers (powers of arrest), the actual announcement of the (police) ombudsman, John (Timoney) has been doing a lot of human rights training top to bottom, an expert was brought in from the US, a Supreme Court judge has delivered a whole range and set piece of human rights training - it started off symbolically with the chief (of Public Security) and his top team, the code of conduct has been rewritten and now published," he said.
"There have been lots of tactical things - the proposed recruitment of 500 people in the community policing side, but it takes time.
"A lot of the stuff that's got to happen are the cultural changes in terms of working practices.
"It's all very well issuing diktats and memos, but you have actually got to immerse people in it and that will take time - but everything appears to be moving in the right direction."
However, allegations of police misconduct continue to surface and Human Rights Watch released a report last week in which it repeated allegations that youths had been detained and mistreated in facilities not connected to police stations.
Mr Yates said he thought the police acted with "great restraint the majority of the time", but added it was impossible for authorities to properly investigate those allegations unless victims came forward.
"The ministry is aware of the allegations and if it is happening it's wholly wrong," added Mr Yates.
"The chief (of Public Security) is aware of them and has put out a very strong memo to say everyone (arrested) has got to be taken to a police station straight away.
"Occasionally there will be circumstances where that can't happen because there are too many prisoners.
"I've been down to these places - yes it's possible it happened because they are big sprawling areas.
"The stables opposite Budaiya Police Station cover several acres, but the important thing is that if it is happening - people have got to come forward.
"They have to have the confidence to come forward. I would hope they could have that confidence now.
"We can't do any more than say it would be investigated, the Public Prosecution will get involved, if they have injuries they need to be seen and recorded."
Some police officers are standing trial for allegedly abusing and causing the deaths of protesters last year, but Mr Yates revealed investigations into other allegations were continuing.
"There is a BICI investigations unit looking at all that," he said.
"It really must be allowed to take its course.
"Don't expect instant results. These things must be done forensically, carefully and fairly.
"If you look at parallels in the UK or the Historical Enquiries Team in Northern Ireland, they do take time.
"The due process must be followed and all parties must have an opportunity to give an account.
"Everything has got to be balanced, fairly assessed by independent prosecutors and if the allegations merit being taken to court then they must be taken to court."
Meanwhile, Mr Yates called for an end to continued attacks on police and police stations by violent opposition elements armed with deadly weapons such as Molotov cocktails.
"The attacks on police stations are disgraceful and counter productive," he said.
"All appropriate measures have been taken by police to defend themselves, but that violence needs to stop.
"Political dialogue is the way forward. I'm not sure violence achieves anything other than a sense of lawlessness and communities distrusting of everybody.
"The policemen in hospital have suffered terrible injuries - shocking, life changing injuries."
He also revealed inquiries were ongoing to identify those behind an escalation of violence before the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.
However, when asked if the attacks were being co-ordinated he would only say an investigation was underway.
"Clearly violence escalated in the lead up to Formula One, it's a matter of public record that several explosions took place and several policemen were seriously injured," he said.
"Investigations are happening and some people arrested.
"Those investigating it will rule nothing out. If it is co-ordinated I'm sure they will find out, but it needs to stop - that's the important thing - and those responsible put on trial."