Police diversity Contents

2BME representation in police forces


7.The most recent Government statistics on the police workforce were published in July 2015. Of the 127,000 police officers in England and Wales on 31 March 2015, 6,979 were from BME backgrounds, an increase of 265 compared with a year earlier. The overall proportion of BME police officers increased from 3.6% in 2006 to 5.5% in 2015. There is, however, considerable variation across the country, with some forces having difficulty in attracting applications from BME members of the community and having a very low proportion of new BME recruits.9 In addition, there is very poor BME representation at senior levels. Janet Hills, President of the National Black Police Association (NBPA), told us that BME women were particularly poorly represented throughout the police service.10

8.In West Yorkshire, 5.1% of police officers are from a BME background, compared to 18.2% of the local population, and its published equality monitoring data shows that little improvement has been made in recent years. Temporary Chief Constable Dee Collins told us that changing the workforce mix had been very difficult because of extremely limited recruitment opportunities in recent years.11 However, she said that in the next 12 months, she would be recruiting 600 new police officers, and a number of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and police staff, and that this presented a “huge opportunity” to encourage people from under-represented groups to join the service.12

9.The Metropolitan Police faces an even greater challenge than that faced by West Yorkshire Police. Although the proportion of BME police officers is higher in the London Metropolitan area than in West Yorkshire, there is an even bigger gap between the police force profile and that of the local community: 40.2% of the population is of a BME background; BME representation in its officer workforce was 12.4% in February 2016 (an increase from 3% in 1999). Between April 2015 and February 2016, 27.3% of new recruits were from BME backgrounds, compared to 16.2% in 2014/15.13

10.Some forces have made progress in terms of identifying the factors contributing to relatively low rates of applications and recruitment of people with a BME background, but have not necessarily been successful in addressing and removing the barriers. For example, Inspector Mustafa Mohammed, President of the Muslim Police Officers Association, told us that vetting of candidates was still a big challenge, particularly if not all of their close relatives lived in the UK, and pointed to the lack of visible role models for potential BME applicants.14 Temporary Chief Constable Dee Collins highlighted the need to find ways of reaching and communicating with young BME people to encourage them to consider careers in the police service.15

11.Andy Fittes, General Secretary of the Police Federation of England and Wales, told us that he thought that none of the chairs of Police Federation branches were black or Asian or from ethnic minority communities, and that there were only two BME representatives out of about 30 on the Police Federation executive committee.16 He also explained that:

Everyone in policing has tried to achieve better representation in policing. Is it enough? No, it is not, because we have not achieved the levels we should have done, so everyone needs to try harder, and we need to look at different ways of achieving, because we have tried for decades, probably, now to do this and we have not succeeded. We need to start to look at different ways of trying to succeed.17

12.In 2013, our predecessor Committee concluded that for too long lip-service had been paid to diversity in the police service, but this was unmatched by action. It also believed that progress since the 1999 Macpherson report on the Metropolitan Police and the Stephen Lawrence case was disappointing; and that it was shameful that not a single Chief Constable was Black or Asian. Three years have passed since the publication of that report, and progress has not been sufficient, but all of those conclusions are even more valid today and the need to address this problem has even greater urgency. Whilst there has been a steady increase in the overall proportion of officers and staff who are of a BME background, progress is painfully slow; there is wide variation between forces; and increased numbers of BME police officers remain overwhelmingly in the most junior ranks. Even allowing for appropriate career progression, the number of BME officers above the rank of Inspector is very disappointing. We find this unacceptable. We believe that it is time for concerted action, prioritised across all forces, policing bodies and Government.

13.We have observed the progress on gender diversity within the police service and we are pleased to note that there is now a higher proportion of female representation in the most senior policing posts. We very much welcome the fact that two of the most influential posts in policing, the heads of the National Crime Agency and the National Police Chiefs’ Council, are held by women, as well five of the Chief Constables in the 43 forces in England and Wales being women.

Retention and career development

14.Although some progress is being made on recruitment, retention and progression of BME officers remains a considerable challenge. Janet Hills suggested that there was institutional racism within the police service and that some of the policies and practices had hidden biases which made it difficult for people to challenge decisions when they felt that they had been subject to unfair discrimination.18

15.The NBPA also said there was statistical evidence that proportionately more BME staff faced disciplinary and complaints proceedings; that formal measures tended to be used more often for BME than white staff; and that despite the existence of this evidence, little action had been taken to tackle the root causes of the disparity. It also suggested that these issues were connected to the under-representation of BME officers in the Professional Standards Unit. The NBPA also said that racism was still an issue for a number of police officers and staff, and that research published by the Stevens Independent Commission into the future of Policing in England and Wales had highlighted cases of bullying and harassment of BME police officers.19

16.Inspector Muhammed pointed to the lack of Black and Asian leaders in the police service to act as role models; the lack of support, opportunities and encouragement for BME people to seek promotion and to recover from setbacks; and the existence of unconscious bias amongst selection panel members. He explained that “there has historically been the perception amongst BME staff that if you do not fit in, you are not part of the network or you do not share the values, you are not going to get promoted”.20 Dal Babu proposed a number of steps to tackle these issues, including: developing a coaching and mentoring programme for BME officers; and providing training for units in forces which deal with complaints from officers to enable them to support officers who have concerns about diversity issues.21

Specialist roles

17.Another area of concern is the poor BME representation in specialist police roles. The 2009 Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Report on Police and Racism suggested that specialist units were often considered a ‘closed shop’. It noted that “this problem needs to be addressed urgently if the police are not to be stained with the accusation that some parts of the service are still only available to those whose face fits”.22

18.Witnesses agreed that the ‘closed shop’ perception still prevailed today, and suggested a number of possible reasons for this. However it should be noted that, for example, the head of armed policing in the Metropolitan Police from 2013-14, and therefore the most senior firearms officer in the country, was from a BME background. Dal Babu said that there was a real challenge for BME officers seeking career development into specialist roles in being able to access the training courses required to acquire the necessary skills.23 He suggested a range of initiatives to address these problems, for example: conducting a full review of the reasons for and ways to overcome low BME representation in specialist roles; introducing compulsory training for staff who participate in selection panels to tackle unconscious bias; expanding the use on selection panels of external assessors from a BME background; and setting targets for BME representation on courses relevant to promotion and progression to specialist roles.24

Chief Officers

19.BME representation is even lower in the senior ranks than among more junior police officers. Rt Hon David Lammy MP, who is leading the Prime Minister’s review into racism in the justice system, has criticised the lack of a black police chief as “bringing the system into disrepute” and has said that the absence of a black police chief among the 43 forces in England and Wales is “hugely problematic”.25

20.HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary’s annual State of Policing report, published in February 2016, noted that only 1% of all Chief Officers (2 out of 201, where ethnicity is known) are black, Asian or minority ethnic people and that more work is needed to ensure that those who work at all levels in policing better reflect the communities they serve.26 Dal Babu told us that there was “not a single, non-white face among all the chief constables and all the police and crime commissioners” and that there was only one BME person out of the 59 members of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC, which replaced the Association of Police Chief Officers (ACPO) in 2015).27

21.Chief Constable Alex Marshall, Chief Executive of the College of Policing, agreed that the overall culture of policing had to be healthy and welcoming to people from all backgrounds, and believed that providing different routes of entry into policing would help to create a more diverse leadership. He said that he was interested to hear from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) that diversity in nursing had increased when they introduced degree entry level.28 However, Janet Davies, FRCN, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, acknowledged that nursing faced similar challenges to the police in terms of diversity in senior positions. 29 In subsequent written evidence, the RCN indicated that its BME membership was around 15% (with about 72% white and 13.8% not known).30

22.The number of BME officers in police forces is increasing to some extent but this is largely limited to junior roles. BME representation at junior levels is only one indicator of progress and is not a full reflection of the diversity of an organisation. The lack of senior BME representation in the police service affects its leadership and culture and could be interpreted as suggesting that the police service has an unconscious bias. People of a BME background wishing to develop their careers within the police service lack role models; encounter barriers when trying to access the training necessary for their career development; and face selection panels which are almost always lacking in diversity (although no evidence was presented to us to suggest that the panels are a barrier in themselves). We acknowledge that this is an issue affecting many other organisations and public services in the UK, and that promotion to the highest ranks starting from what was a low proportion of BME officers takes long-term commitment. However, that is not an excuse for the lack of progress in the police service.

23.The College of Policing, led by its Chief Executive, Chief Constable Alex Marshall, and many individual police forces, have considerable expertise in designing and implementing interventions to support the career development of BME officers, but it is clear from the evidence we received that these interventions are not yet having sufficient impact. The effective implementation of schemes to support the career development of BME officers appears to be subject to the discretion and commitment of individual forces and Chief Officers and is therefore too inconsistent and poorly monitored to be effective. The College of Policing should provide further, stronger leadership on this.

24.A number of practical steps could be taken now to improve retention and progression of BME police officers, including to the most senior ranks. These include: compulsory training on diversity issues for selection and promotion panel members, including those for specialist posts; increased use of external assessors from a BME background on selection panels; instituting coaching and mentoring for BME officers; and ensuring that units which deal with complaints from officers on personnel matters receive dedicated training on diversity issues. These four steps towards greater diversity should then be added as benchmarks for the performance measures against which every police force is assessed. A BME senior leaders’ forum, similar to the Association of Senior Women in Policing, should also be established, to provide support and guidance to BME officers seeking promotion.

9 National Statistics, Police workforce, England and Wales, 31 March 2015. See also data published by The Guardian, 1 January 2016, “Most UK police forces have disproportionate number of white officers” (data was obtained from an FOI request to police forces).

10 Oral evidence taken on 12 April 2016, Q17

11 Oral evidence taken on 12 April 2016, Q81

12 Oral evidence taken on 12 April 2016, Q84

13 Metropolitan Police Service written evidence (PDI0002)

14 Oral evidence taken on 12 April 2016, Qs18 and 35

15 Oral evidence taken on 12 April 2016, Q124

16 Oral evidence taken on 12 April 2016, Q29

17 Oral evidence taken in the inquiry into the College of Policing on 19 April 2016, Q27

18 Oral evidence taken on 12 April 2016, Q10

19 NBPA written evidence (PDI0001)

20 Oral evidence taken on 12 April 2016, Qs18, 19, 53

21 Written evidence submitted by Dal Babu (PDI0003)

23 Oral evidence taken on 12 April 2016, Q5

24 Written evidence submitted by Dal Babu (PDI0003)

25 The Times, 18 April 2016, Race review MP criticises the absence of black police chiefs

26 HMIC, State of Policing: the Annual Assessment of Policing in England and Wales 2015, February 2016

27 Oral evidence taken on 12 April 2016, Q4

28 Oral evidence taken in the inquiry into the College of Policing on 19 April 2016, Qs181-182

29 Oral evidence taken in the inquiry into the College of Policing on 19 April 2016, Q81

30 RCN written evidence submitted for the inquiry into the College of Policing (CPO0002)

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19 May 2016