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Police diversity: Urgent action needed to tackle consistent failure

21 May 2016

The Home Affairs Committee says "urgent and radical action" is needed to tackle the gross under-representation of black and minority ethnic people in the police forces of England and Wales, which the police service has "consistently failed to address" over several decades.

The Report

The facts on police diversity are stark:

  • No police force in England and Wales has a Black or Minority Ethnic (BME) representation which matches its local demographic.
  • 11 forces have no BME officers above the rank of Inspector.
  • In 1999, 2% of police officers in England and Wales were from a BME background, compared to 6.5% of the population and 9.5% of the UK workforce.
  • By 2015, 5.5% of police officers were from a BME background, compared to 14% of the population, and 11.4% of the UK workforce.
  • In the Metropolitan Police Service BME police officer representation is 12.4%, compared to 40.2% of the population.
  • There are no Chief Constables who are BME. 
  • As of October 2015, 4 police forces—Cheshire, North Yorkshire, Dyfed-Powys and Durham—employ no Black or Black British police officers at all. 

The Committee calls for the appointment of a national "Diversity Champion" by the Home Secretary to provide a national lead across the police service, to collect and publish data, promote best practise and oversee a diversity lead in each of the 43 forces.

Key findings

The Committee says practical steps should be taken in each force, against which their performance should be assessed, including: 

  • Introducing coaching and mentoring for BME officers
  • Selection panels, including for specialist posts, to receive diversity training
  • More external assessors from BME background to be appointed to selection panels
  • Units which deal with complaints from officers on personnel matters should receive dedicated training on diversity issues
  • Establishment of a BME senior leaders' forum, similar to the Association of Senior Women in Policing, to provide support and guidance to BME officers seeking promotion

Chair's comments

Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Committee, 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. Despite good intentions from senior officers, diversity and representation in police forces has consistently failed to improve, we must take radical action now.

The Home Secretary should appoint a national "Diversity Champion" co-ordinating diversity leads in each of the 43 police forces in England and Wales. We need an immediate 4 step programme of training, mentoring and ongoing assessment at the stages of recruitment and retention, and support for the efforts for BME officers to rise through the chain of command."

Further information

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