No black officers in four police forces and senior representation is ‘pitiful’
Cheshire, North Yorkshire, Dyfed-Powys and Durham have no black officers and diversity champion needed, says inquiry by MPs
Four police forces in England and Wales still do not have a single black or black British officer and progress in increasing the number of black and minority ethnic police officers has been “painfully slow”, an inquiry by MPs found.
The Commons home affairs select committee said that, 17 years on from the official inquiry into the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence, the number of black and Asian faces in senior police roles was “pitiful” and “many police forces seem to have no better grasp of how to increase diversity than they did decades ago”.
The MPs’ inquiry report published on Saturday said that radical action was needed to achieve the ambition of the home secretary, Theresa May, to have a police service “that looks like the people it serves” and reflects the ethnic profile of the communities it serves.
The report names the four forces that do not employ a single black or black British officer in their ranks as Cheshire, North Yorkshire, Dyfed-Powys and Durham. It says that “it is very disappointing” to find that 11 forces have no minority ethnic officers above the rank of inspector and that only two police chief officers identify themselves as black or with a minority ethnic background, neither of them chief constables.
Keith Vaz, the Commons home affairs select committee chairman, said: “The lack of black and minority ethnic representation in our police forces is stark and shocking, and no one looking at this picture can believe it promotes effective policing.”
“In order to police by consent in 21st-century Britain, the police service must mirror the communities they represent, in religion, race and ethnicity. If not, they will be unable to deal with the challenges of modern day policing.
“If we compare the figures from 1999 and 2015, representation of the population in our police forces has progressed at a snail’s pace. This was unacceptable in 1999 and it’s totally unacceptable now. It is as if the Macpherson report was never written,” added Vaz.
The report said that no police force in England and Wales has a black and minority ethnic representation that matches its local demographics. Even the Metropolitan police, which has 12.4% black and minority ethnic representation, falls far short of the 40% minority ethnic composition of the capital’s population.
The MPs heard evidence from the Met police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, that the law should be changed to allow the force to introduce positive discrimination and introduce 50:50 recruitment.
But May has opposed such a move, saying it was “deeply flawed” and would require a derogation under EU law to make it legal. When a proposal to endorse Hogan-Howe’s positive discrimination approach was considered by the MPs it was voted down by five votes to two.
Most UK police forces have disproportionate number of white officers
The report acknowledged that there had been a steady increase in the overall proportion of black and minority ethnic officers with 6,979 out of 127,000 police officers in England and Wales on 31 March 2015. This was an increase of 265 compared with 12 months earlier. However, while there has been some increase in black and minority ethnic officers, it is overwhelmingly concentrated in the junior ranks, there are wide variations between forces, and the lack of non-white faces in its senior leadership suggests the police have an unconscious bias.
The MPs call for the appointment of a national “diversity champion” by the home secretary along with urgent steps in each force including coaching and mentoring, diversity training for selection panels, and the establishment of a senior black and minority ethnic leaders’ forum.
Supt Manjit Thandi, who leads on diversity for the College of Policing, responding to the report, agreed that not enough was happening but said there were no quick fixes.
“We are tackling this and have already delivered a bespoke evaluation and action plan to all 43 police forces to improve the recruitment, development, progression and retention of BME officers and staff,” he said. “We also want to expose senior police leaders to the challenges faced by our diverse officers and staff so we are trialling a reverse mentoring programme in pilot forces.”
Thandi said there were “no quick fixes” because they wanted to attract more diverse candidates and to develop existing officers and staff into leadership roles and change their culture so that difference and inclusivity were valued.
IMAGE: The report said that 17 years on from the inquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s murder, ‘police forces have no better grasp of how to increase diversity’. Photograph: Family handout/PA