Black Police Recruitment
We need leadership not legislation.
Britain is a country that is changing fast. We are no longer the cultural drab monochrome society of the past. Today as the publication of the last Census showed Britain and in particular the bustling inner city areas are now thriving multicultural metropolises.
This is much to the chagrin of many on the hard right wing of British politics who see all change as threatening the end of life as they know it.
In the Britain of the 21st century the country is rainbow alliance of cultures and communities that change is happening so fast we will need to ensure that Government policy, planning and the allocation of resources increasing reflect this changing reality. One of the key institutions that need to keep pace with these changes is the police service.
A new tenant of the British police services must be established to reflect these changing times and that is the tacit acceptance of the principle that the police service must reflect the community they serve. This alongside the principle of policing by consent forms the core legitimacy of the policing on modern Britain.
Sir Peter Fahy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester and Association of Chief Police Officers has expressed his concern that cuts to policing numbers are having a disproportionate effect on black officers and calling on the Government to introduce new legislation to enable the introduction of positive action.
The call by Sir Peter Fahy for new legislation illustrates the confusion that exits even at the highest level of the British police service when it comes to the issue of race equality.
Black Chief Superintendent Dal Babu of the MPS recently resigned after 30 years in the service criticising the lack of commitment to race equality and calling for the introduction of ‘ radical measures” to help improve matters.
As the former Policing Director for London I understood this well during my term in office. I had come to the conclusion, given the fraught and violent history of police and black majority communities then increasing police recruitment from these communities was vital
Having worked at the cutting edge of police and black community relations for 30 years it was clear to me that if the relationship with the police and communities was to be improved, communities need to be policed by officers who looked like them and understood their culture and beliefs.
That’s why I introduced a policy of positive action in the MPS during 2002 and 2006. Initially, the Metropolitan Police Service Legal and Human Resources told me it was illegal to do so. I tested that opinion and the matter was referred to the then Labour Government and I was told by the Treasury legal team that using positive action was illegal under EU law.
We then procured a legal opinion form a leading European Barrister who provided me with a legal opinion that positive action was both legal in the EU and the UK under existing legalisation.
At the core of the debate was that the MPS and Treasury legal departments were far to conservative in interpretation of equality law and feared legal challenge that then prevented them taking action.
This innate institutional conservatism was making institutions risk averse when considering equality measures. This was informed by the lack of political conviction from leading politicians to prioritise equality as political priority. In my experience professional and political leadership is weak, confused and intimidated by the Telegraph, Mail and the Sun newspaper editorials.
That was not the case in relation to the then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone who instinctively understood equality. Ken was absolutely clear that equality was critical element to developing a sustainable, fair and successful city.
Having secured the necessary legal opinion we instructed the Metropolitan Police Service to focus all their recruitment efforts in black and ethnic communities who were minorities then and are now in London majority communities. Although the MPS were initially impressed by their progress on tackling racism post the adoption of the McPherson recommendations. I pointed out that even if every officer recruited was a black police officer for the next decade the MPS could not achieve the target set by then Home Secretary Jack Straw of 10% by the year 2009.
With political leadership and a tight regulatory framework linked to budget and performance assessments we made substantive progress in recruitment across the Greater London Authority (GLA). We became the most diverse public administration in the UK. The GLA gad the highest representation of women and black people in the top 5% of management than any other public sector institution. 70% of the top 5% pay grade of GLA was black. Such figures were and remain unprecedented.
During the following four years we recruited more black and ethnic minority police recruits into the service than at any other time in British policing history. This resulted in the majority of applications to become MPS officers coming from black communities. A quite remarkable achievement given the lamentable history up to that point. .
In 2000 the number was roughly around 4% and by 2008 it was 9%. In short we increased black and ethnic minority by over 100%
Both the momentum and legacy of that period of substantive gain has bee squandered and lost in the last four years.
Current Mayor of London, Boris Johnson covert ideological opposition to the principle equality saw the entire equality policy-monitoring framework that was woven in to annual corporate assessment and budget formulation process dismantled and discarded. The Coalition government also virtually abandoned any commitment to race equality bizarrely equating this to a form of “ separatism or extremism”.
This echoes the Government determined attempt to undermine the positive aspects of “ multiculturalism”, a social reality that has been politically butchered by right wing politicians and sections of the press.
During my time in office I ensured that Black officer recruitment, retention, promotion, disciplinaries and grievances were closely monitored quarterly, recruitment targets were established and enforced, budgets were transformed to support the policy goals. Johnson simply dismissed or allowed to wither on the vine all of the policies and forums that had worked so well.
Boris then replaced Commissioner Sir Ian Blair with Sir Paul Stephenson who had no real commitment to achieving greater levels of representation. Johnson then declared that “ institutional racism ‘ was defeated and was a term that no longer applied to the MPS. Stephenson agreed and went on the attack with declaring that it was time for the MPS to move on from race.
So the number of black police officers is now going down nationally and in London as a result of austerity cuts, compounded by a political cowardice, indifference and sometime open hostility to the principle of race equality. To deliver equality you need balls not legislation and political leadership is key to that so politicians and Chief Constables should stop hiding behind the law and adopt radical solutions such as positive action now.
How long will it take the MPS to look like London? Never in a million years as long as the current net loss of black officers continues.
This is alongside the poisonous deterioration of police black community relationships in London, the return of a virtual white police service, growing incidences of police racism and deaths in custody, stop and search and encouraging the reporting crime. Trust and confidence has broken down, black officers are voting with their feet.
Waiting for legislation to effect change and using the cuts as an excuse for failure is, a quite literally, a cop out.