Leadership and standards in the police - Home Affairs Committee Contents

5  Diversity

99.  The essential bond between the British police and the public is founded on the fundamental understanding that the police are the public, yet the complexion of the police service is increasingly different from the public it serves.

100.  Professor Simon Holdaway believed that interest in diversity had captured chief officers' attention for a period, but subsequently declined.[86] Former Chief Superintendent Dal Babu OBE told us that in the 30 years he had been in the police service, the proportion of Black and minority ethic (BME) officers had increased only from 1% to 5%, whereas the number of BME officers who are promoted to the chief ranks had gone down—from nine BME officers at ACPO rank at the time of the Stephen Lawrence investigation, to just four at the moment.[87] He told us that discrimination within the force was still present, but more subtle than in the recent past and noted that "specialist departments are virtually all white".[88] The police service should collect and publish data detailing diversity within each department to be completed by April 2014. Without this data, it is impossible to assess whether the whole service is properly representative.

101.  According to our witnesses, police sometimes have a limited understanding of issues relating to ethnicity and sexual orientation, which has an impact on public trust in police services.[89] Police from different backgrounds bring a new cultural intelligence to the force, which makes a real business and public safety case for change.[90]

102.  The Higher Education Forum for Learning and Development in Policing reported that initial interest in policing among minorities and people with registered disabilities was stifled at the recruitment stage.[91] Tom Winsor highlighted research on the barriers to joining the police faced by people from Black and minority ethnic communities, which found that in those communities the status of policing had been eroded and did not match other professions such as law and medicine.[92]

103.  Mike Fuller, former Chief Constable of Kent Police, added that recruitment was only part of the challenge and the retention and development staff needed to be a sustained project.[93] In 2010-11, 165 BME officers joined the police, but 204 left. According to Professor Simon Holdaway "you open the front door and for half of them the back door is open and they go".

104.  Several witnesses suggested that the route to senior ranks was guarded by ACPO, which did not have a good record of diversity or innovation, describing how it was necessary to fit "the ACPO mould".[94]

Rank Representation by Gender

England and Wales - 31 March 2012 (Latest Available)
Female Officer volume 30,2784,000 1,159297 14546 3735,962
% Female Officer Representation 29.4%18.7% 17.6%17.2% 16.3%12.1% 17.7%26.8%
Male officer Volume 72,65617,371 5,4311,430 745334 17298,139
% Male officer Representation 70.6%81.3% 82.4%82.8% 83.7%87.9% 82.3%72.3%
Total officers102,934 21,3716,590 1,727890 380209 134,101

Rank Representation by Aggregated Ethnic Group

England and Wales - 31 March 2012 (Latest Available)
Minority Ethnic Officer Volume 5,540778 22864 3612 66,664
% Minority Ethnic Officer Representation 5.4%3.6% 3.5%3.7% 4.0%3.2% 2.9%5.0%
Total Officers102,934 21,3716,590 1,727890 380209 134,101

105.  Forces varied considerably in their successfulness in promoting diversity. The diversity of each police force by gender and ethnicity is listed in Annex I of this Report, along with changes over time. The Metropolitan Police has the highest proportion of BME officers, at 10%, but as Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick noted this is "well off the level for London".[95] In Dyfed-Powys, North Wales and Humberside, fewer than 1 in 100 officers are from a BME background, though these lower proportions might reflect more closely the composition of the communities they serve.

106.  Alex Marshall pointed out that improving diversity was difficult in a time of sparse recruitment, but argued that increased diversity within the ranks of the cadets and special constabulary brought its own benefits as well as widening the potential recruitment pool.[96] Mr Marshall said that three development courses had been established for BME officers at the beginning of their career and the College had a role in bringing that talent through quickly into senior positions.[97]

107.  Tom Winsor argued that the only criterion for entry into and advancement within the police service should be merit and that "positive discrimination is not appropriate". He proposed that forces should address the issue by actively seeking candidates among minority communities.[98] Dal Babu suggested that recognising the desirability of language skills—such as a knowledge of Urdu or Punjabi—could help to build diversity in areas where those language skills would also help the police to relate to communities.[99] Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick acknowledged that her counter-terrorism command would be "more effective if we had more people with certain language skills and were more reflective of London's communities".[100]

108.  Police forces must recognise that diversity is more than simply ticking a political correctness box: true representation is critical for public acceptance and knowledge of communities and different mindsets can bring real operational advantages as well as everyday improvements in relations with the public. It is shameful that not a single chief constable is Black or Asian.

109.  Diversity has for too long been given lip service but not action in the police service. It is very disappointing that ten years after the McPherson report and 20 years after the death of Stephen Lawrence so little progress has been made. Indeed, in some respects the police service has gone backwards with the BME percentage of ACPO falling from 4% in 2010 to 2.9% in 2012. The importance of having diversity at the top is shown by the fact that former Chief Constable Mike Fuller's force has become significantly less diverse since his departure to head HMICPS. The Committee is therefore deeply alarmed by the complete absence of BME officers on the strategic command course and expects to see a substantial number of officers from a Black or minority ethnic background on the course next year.

110.  Skills-based selection would fit well with Mr Winsor's emphasis on merit and prove a useful tool for diversifying the service. The importance of cultural intelligence and abilities such as language skills should be assessed by each force and, where appropriate, recognised in recruitment planning. The Committee welcomes the commitment to increasing diversity in the Metropolitan Police, articulated by Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne, and will be monitoring progress.

111.  We are concerned that in some cases, pre-recruitment qualifications such as the Certificate of Knowledge, which may be prohibitively expensive for some candidates, may stifle diversity. Means-tested support should be in place to ensure that the best candidates are not lost because of financial barriers.

112.  The detrimental impact on the effectiveness of a force that does not reflect the communities it serves, including in counter-terrorism operations, has been articulated by senior officers including Cressida Dick and Sir Peter Fahy. The Government should therefore change the law to allow for positive action in the police force, at least up to a representative threshold for each area.

113.  We note that PCCs are now responsible for appointing their own Chief Constables and will not necessarily have regard to the national picture of diversity when doing so. It is therefore absolutely essential that high calibre minority officers are able to reach the upper ranks so they can be chosen. Mentoring schemes such as the one implemented by Chief Superintendent Dal Babu should be rolled out across the country.


114.  Of course, specific requirements for each rank may present difficulties for "direct entry" candidates hoping to join policing from a different career. Direct entry to the rank of superintendent was proposed by the Winsor Review. Currently, police officers start as a constable and progress through each rank in order. This is the single entry point into policing, which the Government believed "can miss too many people who might make highly effective senior police officers".[101]

115.  As the Police Foundation pointed out, two years of street-based experience can help an officer in developing the "craft" of policing—the practical instincts of officers that can be vital in a crisis. It noted that there is evidence of "overwhelming support" for single entry inside the police service and that constables have more confidence in leaders who have had frontline experience.[102] Dal Babu told us:

"I was a gold firearms commander where two of my officers were shot and seriously injured, and I then had to manage the scene there and then subsequently arrange for the arrest of the culprits. That is not something you can learn overnight".[103]

He pointed out that communities build trust in officers over time and value the knowledge that officers have progressed through the ranks. He believed a "conveyor belt" attitude was not the best way to improve diversity in senior ranks.[104]

116.   On the other hand, policing has become increasingly specialist and there is a need for technical abilities in areas such as complex fraud or cyber-crime.[105] Multi-point entry could assist in increasing the proportion of female and ethnic minority officers in senior positions. Thirdly, direct entry may help to bring new ideas into the police from confident and experienced professionals.[106]

117.  Tom Winsor told us that "I wish I had gone further in relation to the flexibility of a chief officer to bring someone in from an outside job, perhaps with a lot of years' experience, at a higher salary than as things are at the moment".[107]

118.  As ACPO pointed out, "given the level of risk managed by the service it is crucial that senior officers are competent from day one".[108] The Police Foundation suggested that the College could design courses to ensure that non-police officers gain relevant on-the-ground training, skills and experience.[109]

119.   There are already opportunities to join the service in senior roles as police staff members (i.e. not warranted officers). Non-warranted staff members are represented at all levels including senior management teams.[110] Police staff and PCSOs now represent 38% of the police workforce in England and Wales, with staff represented at almost all management levels in forces and across all policing functions. The Strategic Command Course is available to both officers and staff.[111]

120.  Assistant Chief Officers are regularly drawn from successful careers in finance, human resources, IT and more and bring a great deal of skills and experience into policing. Vicky Robinson suggested that "Direct entry [...] is reinforcing this notion that you have to hold a warrant card to be an effective police leader" and that if more were done to integrate civilian staff direct entry would not be required.[112]

121.  Police staff are an important entry point for diversity of experience, ethnicity and other characteristics and play an increasingly important role in policing. We note that in November 2012 the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 transferred all of the assets, liabilities and staff formerly employed by Police Authorities to Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs). By April 2014, a second stage of transfers is due to take place, leaving some "governance" staff with the PCCs and all "operational" staff with chief constables. Under this Stage 2 Transfer process, operational staff under the direction and control of the chief constable pass to the chief constable's employment. We expect most staff to be transferred to chief constables' employment and a clear justification for any staff remaining with PCCs. For clarity and operational effectiveness, it is important that this process happens smoothly and that the April 2014 deadline is met.

122.  For warranted officers, the culture and "craft" of policing are valuable assets that can guide officers in a crisis. The trust built between officers and their superiors on the basis of shared experience is another valuable commodity. However, we recognise that it is necessary to have warranted officers with certain skills within the service, especially for specialist assignments such as cyber crime. The College should develop a "points-based" direct entry system, it must identify specific skills requirements at specific levels in the service and open up direct entry to fill that gap, rather than simply throw open the door to senior ranks.

86   LSP 34 [Professor Simon Holdaway], paragraph 12 Back

87   Q 309 [Dal Babu] Back

88   Q 323 [Dal Babu] Back

89   LSP 06 [Stonewall] Back

90   Q 316 [Dal Babu] Back

91   LSP 08 [Higher Education Forum for Learning and Development in Policing], paragraph 3.12 Back

92   LSP 20 [NPIA], section 2.8 Back

93   Q 320 [Mike Fuller] Back

94   LSP 34 [Professor Simon Holdaway], paragraph 6; LSP 03 [David Treadwell]; LSP 35 [A J Wright] Back

95   Home Affairs Committee, Counter-terrorism, HC 231-i, Q 15 [Cressida Dick], 4 June 2013 Back

96   Q 212 [Alex Marshall] Back

97   Q 215 [Alex Marshall] Back

98   Q 614 [Tom Winsor]; Q 615 [Tom Winsor] Back

99   Q 328 [Dal Babu] Back

100   Home Affairs Committee, Counter-terrorism, HC 231-i, Q 17 [Cressida Dick], 4 June 2013 Back

101   Home Office, Consultation on the Implementation of Direct Entry in the Police, January 2013 Back

102   Rowe, M. (2006) 'Following the leader: frontline narratives on police leadership', Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, Volume29, Number 4. Back

103  Q 333 [Dal Babu] Back

104   Q 315 [Dal Babu] Back

105   LSP 05 [Police Foundation], paragraph 19 Back

106  LSP 05 [Police Foundation], paragraph 20 Back

107   Q 604 [Tom Winsor] Back

108   LSP 21 [ACPO] Back

109   LSP 05 [Police Foundation], paragraph 24 Back

110   LSP 21 [ACPO] Back

111   LSP 21 [ACPO] Back

112   LSP 29 [Vicky Robinson] Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 1 July 2013