Chief Constable admits policing still contains racism as action plan is released

West Midlands Police Chief Constable Sir Dave Thompson speaks out as Police Race Action Plan is released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing

The Police Race Action plan has been released today (Tuesday, May 24) in a bid to “address the significantly lower levels of trust and confidence among some Black people and the race disparities affecting Black people that policing cannot currently fully explain.”

West Midlands Police Chief Constable, Sir Dave Thompson, who is the Senior Responsible Officer for the Police Race Action Plan, has admitted that important issues have remained in policing which need to be addressed.

He said: “Much has been done by policing to address racism in the police and society. Policing is more inclusive, more diverse, and more reflective of our communities than we have ever been but equally it still contains racism, discrimination, and bias.

“Clearly policing is not unique in this – racism and conscious or unconscious bias is a society-wide problem - but given our powers and essential role in society the standard for policing must be higher.

“Saying that racism, discrimination, and bias still exist in policing – in behaviour but also in policies and practices that have a negative disproportionate impact on Black people – is not the same as characterising policing or all its officers and staff as racist.

“The majority of police officers and staff would assert they would not consciously tolerate racism. Racism is prohibited and repudiated in the rules and codes of practice that underpin policing. We need to go further and build an actively anti-racist police service that reflects and protects all communities.

“It’s important to say disparities are not necessarily a sign of discrimination and there may be a range of factors behind a disparity. But we do need to understand the causes, explain them, and reform them where there is not a justifiable reason for the disparity.”

Police Race Action plan released

What is in the Police Race Action Plan?

The plan defines anti-racism in policing as tackling racial disparities proactively, accepting them as problems whatever their cause because of the impact they have on Black people.

The Independent Scrutiny and Oversight Board (ISOB), chaired by Barrister Abimbola Johnson, will have a critical role in scrutinising the plan and its delivery.

Key actions as part of the plan:

• Increasing the awareness and understanding of every officer and member of staff of racism, anti-racism, Black history, and its connection to policing through introduction of a mandatory programme of training for all police officers and staff. This is in line with the government’s Inclusive Britain plan’s recommendations that police recruits have a better understanding of the areas and people they serve, become more representative of their local communities, and benefit from local knowledge and experiences.

• Adopting an ‘explain or reform’ approach to race disparities and developing a new national approach to help forces tackle race disparities in their use of powers including traffic stops; stop and search, use of Taser and other types of force. This will be supported by strengthened governance and oversight of the use of police powers including effective supervision and community scrutiny of police data and body-worn video (BWV) footage of police interaction with Black people.

• Reducing racial disparities in misconduct and complaints processes and improving support to Black officers and staff. The NPCC will work with the APCC to review misconduct and disciplinary processes from initial assessment investigation and outcomes and implement changes.

• Trialling and testing methods for better enabling Black people to have their voices heard, raise concerns, work on solving problems in their community and provide feedback. Their input will then shape local action plans and they will be empowered to hold their police force to account on their delivery. We will also hear the voices of our Black and Black heritage officers and staff in a survey – the first of its kind, which will run for annually for the next five years

• Increased action to address the criminal exploitation of young Black men, a group identified as being vulnerable to this form of exploitation, working to disrupt the cycle of victims becoming offenders and ensuring police action is appropriate to their age and exploitation is properly considered.

• Ensuring a good police response to missing persons from Black communities - people from Black communities continue to be over-represented in missing person numbers, making up 14% of missing person reports while only making up 3% of the general population.

• Introducing a national standard across all recruitment and promotion processes to minimise race disparities. Building on the results of a new online assessment process, which has led to a significant improvement in the success rates of Black candidates (57.8%) compared to the previous, face-to-face assessment method (49.2%).

West Midlands Police Headquarters, Lloyd House

Can I have my say?

The Independent Scrutiny and Oversight Board (ISOB), chaired by Barrister Abimbola Johnson, will have a critical role in scrutinising the plan and its delivery.

Police have also launched  a survey  which they say will enable anyone with expertise or an interest in the plan to share their views and shape the final plan.

What have race experts said about the plan?

Abimbola Johnson, Chair of the Independent Scrutiny and Oversight Board (ISOB), said: “George Floyd’s murder may have caused an international reckoning with the police but the fact is that there are issues with policing and racism here too. The last few months alone have demonstrated this with a swathe of reports showing the unfortunate extent to which police have mistreated Black people.

“Something radical needs to be done to transform the relationship the police have with Black communities. Data shows that sadly every aspect of policing produces or at the very least replicates racial disparities and racism: arrest; handcuffing; stop and search; strip searching; use of taser; remands in custody; and charging to name just a few.

“When Black people are victims of criminality there have been unacceptable instances of them being let down and even actively harmed by the police who are meant to serve them. When Black people join the police, they fare worse than their White colleagues in terms of recruitment, disciplinary action, retention, and promotion.

“My board will be working hard to push the police to deal with their problems head on. Policing cannot do that on their own, no one can solve a cultural issue without intervention. My Board and our Accountability Forum will ensure that the police do not ‘mark their own homework’; we will ensure that the police listen to anti-racism organisations, local communities, and individuals.

“We will ensure that the Police works transparently when doing so. If we are not satisfied with the way the Programme responds to feedback, consultation and data, then we will say so.

“This interim plan needs thorough and trustworthy public engagement, which we will make it our duty to closely scrutinise and monitor.”

Inspector Andy George, President of the National Black Police Association (NBPA) said:“Racism and discrimination has blighted the hard work that the majority of police officers and staff do a daily basis to detect crime and prevent harm in society. The failure to deal effectively with racism in police systems and processes has allowed those who wish to bully and discriminate to operate in the knowledge that they are seldom held to account. This has been particularly visible in the last few years and demonstrates the need for long term and continuous action.

“The murder of George Floyd was a visual representation of the consequences of failing to tackle racism in all its forms. This action plan was the commitment from Chief Constables to tackle the lack of trust and confidence in our Black officers, staff, and communities.

“The NBPA have a unique role in developing long lasting relationships between the police service and the communities we come from, and we welcome the part we have played in helping to shape some of the actions in the plan. We hope this collaboration of lived experience and policing is continued as the plan is implemented at a local level.

“All Chief Constables have signed up to this action plan and the National Black Police Association will be working with the Independent Oversight and Scrutiny Board to ensure that real change is delivered in all police forces across England and Wales.

“The evidence-base and requirement for change has been long standing and now is the time for action to follow the words and sentiments from police leaders.”

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