NEW ROLE: Bishop Derek Webley
PRIME MINISTER David Cameron is being asked to create a national ‘gang tsar’ role for Bishop Derek Webley, the former chair of West Midlands Police Authority who stood as an independent candidate in the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections.
Webley, a strident anti-gun campaigner and highly respected figure in Birmingham’s inner city, has often worked behind the scenes as a negotiator in times of tension.
During disturbances in 2005 and the recent riots in August 2011, he was consulted as a ‘barometer’ for community feeling and has played a key role in calming volatile situations over the years.
At a recent ‘bring out the vote’ rally as part of the PCC election campaign at his church in Lozells, members of two rival gangs stood side by side on the altar in a public show of support for him.
It was an unprecedented sight to see members of bitter rivals the Johnsons and Burgers uniting on stage at the New Testament Church of God.
But it has been seen as their way of showing respect to Webley who has acted as a mentor to troubled young people struggling to find their way out of a gang lifestyle.
Desmond Jaddoo, founder of the Birmingham Empowerment Forum, has written to Cameron asking him to consider Webley as a peer with a national lead in dealing with gangs, the family and community. Jaddoo called the uniting of the two gangs “a significant breakthrough.”
In his letter Jaddoo writes: “Bishop Webley’s work in the West Midlands is unquestionable from connecting with families in their times of grief to dealing with happier moment such as christenings and weddings alongside his community duties as a local bishop.
“He has also been tasked on many occasions to conduct funerals for the victims of gun and gang crime.”
He adds: “I believe that he would be effective in a national role as he has demonstrated his ability to connect with all areas of society, thus making him an ideal individual in dealing and leading on a national gang strategy.”
Webley was a member of the West Midlands Police Authority for the past 11 years, being chair for the past three until he resigned in October to stand as a PCC candidate.