Written Evidence submitted by Dr. Tara Lai Quinlan, Senior Lecturer in Law, Sheffield Hallam University (MAC0021)




1. Relations between police and many Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities in England and Wales have long been strained. Communities assert over-policing and under-protecting, driving low levels of police legitimacy and police workforce participation. The recent UK Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis Police necessitate that fundamental changes are made to policing in England and Wales. While a number of measures are needed to improve police relations with many of the UK’s BAME communities and other traditionally marginalised groups, now is the time for decisive action to reform UK policing.


2. Police in England and Wales have long experienced tensions with many BAME communities, and strained legitimacy dating back to at least the Windrush arrivals in 1949. Voluminous empirical evidence including studies commissioned by UK government have for decades demonstrated that police in England and Wales have been unable to shed perceptions they over-police BAME people by concentrating policing efforts in their communities, yet under-protect them from victimisation, including racialised violence (Hall et al. 1978, Holdaway 1983, Skogan 1994, Stone and Tuffin 2000, Bowling and Phillips 2002, Whitfield 2004, Webster 2007, Murji 2014). Many prior inquiries have examined these police-BAME community tensions, including the Scarman inquiry (1981), the Macpherson inquiry (1999), Morris inquiry (2004), Home Affairs Committee inquiry (2009) on Macpherson 10th anniversary, the Home Affairs Committee inquiry (2013) on police leadership, the Home Affairs Committee inquiry (2016) on police diversity, and the Lammy review (2017). While prior inquiries have recommended a variety of measures to improve police tensions with BAME and other marginalised communities, none have yielded widespread UK police reforms. This Committee is well positioned to seize the opportunity to make England and Wales policing an international model for greater police justice and accountability by curbing disproportionate and unjust policing.


3. The Home Affairs Committee should recommend implementing a series of evidence-based police reforms including: prioritising police legitimacy with robust procedural justice training, shifting UK police culture to a guardianship model, making England and Wales policing truly representative of policed communities, addressing implicit and explicit police bias, and implementing a peer intervention policing model. It is only by proactively making evidence-based police reforms that the UK can begin to repair strained relations between police and many BAME and other marginalised communities.


Written Evidence – Reforming UK Policing to Improve Relations With BAME Communities

4. I am Senior Lecturer in Law at Sheffield Hallam University, and previously worked as a lawyer in the US, having spent nearly two decades researching UK and US policing disparities. I have examined post-9/11 racial profiling of Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities (Ramirez et al. 2003; Quinlan 2019), and am currently writing a book on the role of police diversity in facilitating police reform and police culture change (Quinlan 2021). Among other roles, I have previously served on South Yorkshire Police Stop and Search Review Panel. Below are several evidence-based police reform proposals that show promise for improving police relations and police legitimacy with BAME communities and other traditionally marginalised groups.


Prioritising UK Police Legitimacy in Marginalised Communities

5. To be effective, UK police must prioritise legitimacy, meaning how legitimate the public perceive police, particularly in BAME and other traditionally marginalised UK communities. Research shows when people have unfair policing experiences, they are less inclined to obey the law and cooperate with police (Hough et al. 2010; Jackson et al. 2012). Only when people feel police treat them fairly do they want to engage police, report crimes or provide tips (Madon et al. 2017). The recent UK Black Lives Matter protests show that many marginalised UK communities do not see police as legitimate, which impedes effective policing. Procedurally fair UK policing must be increased through implementing compulsory and annual procedural justice training like those piloted by the College of Policing (2013) and the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice (2020), to increase levels of procedural justice and reduce poor or contentious policing practices on the streets.


Changing UK Police Culture

7. While many argue police ‘warrior culture’ is a product of militarised American policing, a closer analysis of the ways it impacts UK policing culture is required. Police culture generally refers to the informal norms, attitudes and values in police organisations, and the more discretion officers have, the more opportunity it has to influence behaviours (Reiner 2010). The ‘warrior cop’ aspect of police culture is not just about carrying firearms or other weapons, but means adopting an adversarial posture toward the policing of communities. While UK policing prides itself on the long tradition of Sir Robert Peel’s ‘policing by consent’, research also suggests it does not always apply in traditionally marginalised UK communities (see, e.g. Hall et al 1978; Cohen 2003). Many BAME communities assert that they are not policed by consent, but instead treated as suspects not partners in the shared project of public safety.


8. In the US, President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (2015) began a national conversation about shifting police warrior culture to the guardianship policing model, meaning police working as guardians not adversaries of local communities. While the US has much work to do, the UK has not reckoned with the ways police warrior culture shapes UK policing. As a starting point, UK police training must shift to emphasise working in partnership with communities to create mutual respect and trust, rather than functioning adversarially.


Make UK Police Representative of Policed Communities

9. BAME communities have repeatedly sought proportional police representation in England and Wales as one important step for improving police-community dynamics. However, the 43 police services of England and Wales are not currently racially representative, with just 7.0 per cent BAME police officers compared with a BAME population of over 14.6 per cent (ONS 2019). Diversity matters because research clearly shows that increasing the proportion of BAME officers can significantly improve community relations and public perceptions of police legitimacy in England and Wales (see, e.g. Weitzer and Tuch 2006).


10. While UK research is lacking about the positive effects of increased police diversity on policing legitimacy, this stands in stark contrast to studies carried out in other jurisdictions including the US and Israel. These show increasing police diversity can improve police legitimacy perceptions, particularly among ethnic minority communities. Studies suggest that people see racially diverse policing as fairer and more trustworthy (Weitzer and Tuch 2006). This research provides clear evidence that, where police are viewed as more representative of policed communities, police credibility and respect are enhanced (Sklansky 2006). Indeed, increasing racial diversity in police forces can bolster police trust and cooperation, particularly in ethnic minority communities (Marschall and Shah 2007). Moreover, ethnic minorities’ interests in engaging police and police legitimacy views can depend on perceptions of institutional inclusiveness (Nanes 2018). For some ethnic minorities, interactions with ethnic minority officers can improve police legitimacy (Theobald and Haider-Markel 2009). Overall, these studies show greater impressions of police diversity can increase police legitimacy, particularly for ethnic minorities.


11. Improvements in UK police diversity have seen slow progress. There are many reasons for this, including confusion over positive action rules under Equality Act 2010 (Bury et al. 2018). More fundamentally, however, police research from other jurisdictions shows that voluntary police diversity programmes like positive action are consistently less effective than compulsory diversity plans like positive discrimination due to a lack of focus and legal enforcement pressures (see e.g., Gustafson 2013). The limited trajectory of progress in respect of police diversity in England and Wales will continue so long as positive action remains the only means by which police diversity in England and Wales is addressed.


12. By contrast, positive discrimination holds significant promise for rapid police diversity gains in England and Wales. Positive discrimination has been instrumental for greater police diversity in Northern Ireland, the Netherlands, the United States and other jurisdictions (Walker 1989; de Vries and Pettigrew 1994; Sklansky 2006; Rea and Masefield 2014). While critics argue positive discrimination provides hiring benefits to protected group members without considering adequate qualifications and solely on the basis of identity, the opposite is true, with programmes like Northern Ireland’s 50:50 positive discrimination hiring plan requiring all applicants to satisfy all hiring criteria first, only after which their religion, race, gender or other protected characteristics can be considered (ICP 1999). Positive discrimination is also incorrectly associated with hiring quotas reserving specific places for protected group members, while most positive discrimination programmes like Northern Ireland’s prohibit quotas, instead setting flexible hiring targets (ICP 1999).


13. Over the years, some UK leaders have similarly called for implementing positive discrimination to increase BAME representation and improve legitimacy in BAME communities, including the Morris Inquiry (2004), the Commission for Racial Equality (2005), former London Met Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, former Police Minister Damian Green (Evans 2013), former head of the Cheshire Police Simon Byrne (Dodd 2013; Dodd et al. 2015), and former head of the College of Policing Alex Marshall (Boffey 2014). These calls should now be heeded and a temporary positive discrimination programme should be implemented for policing in England and Wales.


14. A temporary 50:50 hiring plan for England and Wales policing could follow the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s model (ICP 1999). It could provide that across all England and Wales forces, vacant officer positions for 10 years be filled by qualified candidates from alternating ‘BAME’ and ‘Other’ candidate pools in merit order. All candidates would be required to fulfill all officer hiring criteria before joining either the ‘BAME’ and ‘Other’ hiring pools. The plan could set a national 20 per cent BAME representation target across England and Wales by 2030, consistent with UK population projections.


15. But increasing UK police diversity cannot cease at the officer level. In my 2019-2020 interviews with diverse police leaders from a range of backgrounds across the UK and US, I found having diverse police leaders is essential not only for increased visibility, but also for broadening perspectives on community engagement and input, policing priorities and tactics, and use of force (Quinlan 2021). Increasing diversity among UK police leaders will play an essential role in helping shift police cultures that continue exhibiting institutional racism, sexism, homophobia and other toxic qualities.


Mitigate UK Police Implicit and Explicit Bias

16. Police are like the rest of us in that they hold both explicit and implicit biases that automatically shape their perceptions, even when unaware (Greenwald and Kreiger 2006).

This becomes problematic when those biases shape how police do their jobs. Extensive research has shown that people including police tend to associate Black faces with criminality, which in turn can shape whom police decide to stop, search, detain, arrest, or use force against (see e.g., Eberhardt et al. 2004; Correll et al. 2007). A combination of factors are needed to mitigate police explicit and implicit biases on the job, including increasing long-term bias training, diversifying policing, increased procedural justice practices and reducing discretionary decision-making opportunities, all of which can narrow the opportunities for explicit or implicit police biases to shape police decision-making in the field.


Support UK Police Peer Intervention Programmes

17. George Floyd’s death highlighted the need for officers to be held accountable both for their own actions and those of fellow officers. While Minneapolis Police had a legalduty to intervene’ (Minneapolis Ordinance 5-303.01) in George Floyd’s killing, the officers argued that they could not because they were not empowered to do so. This shows why only a legal duty to intervene is insufficient to curb problematic policing practices. Police must be trained to feel sufficiently supported to call out wrongdoing when they see fellow officers engage in excessive force, racism, sexism, homophobia or other toxic practices.


18. The UK should be proactive in implementing compulsory police peer intervention training. The most rigorous and highly regarded training programme is Ethical Policing Is Courageous (EPIC), which the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) and other departments have used to empower officers to intervene to prevent misconduct. EPIC has provided important building blocks for NOPD and other police services to begin shifting their police cultures to enable officers to hold each other accountable. The UK should follow suit by implementing compulsory EPIC training for all officers to create environments where UK police feel capable of intervening where they see misconduct – be it excessive use of force or stereotype driven stops and searches – before it occurs.



19. This submission has sought to provide an evidence-based proposals for beginning the type of systemic UK police reform needed to heal the rift between England and Wales police and BAME and other traditionally marginalised communities. Notably, police reform is just one element of addressing systemic inequalities facing these communities. At this juncture, it is also important to weigh the costs of policing against the UK’s commitment to non-policing initiatives to support communities and facilitate crime reduction. But now is the time for UK police to seize the opportunity to become an international model for greater police justice and accountability, and curb disproportionate and unjust policing. Thank you for your consideration.



June 2020







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