Police diversity improving at a snail's pace, say MPs

Improvements to the number of ethnic minority officers employed by the nation's police forces have been made at a 'snail's pace', according to an influential group of MPs.

Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz

The rate of progress in making policing more diverse has been so slow that it is as if the 1999 Macpherson Report exposing institutional racism in the service never happened, the Home Affairs Select Committee said today.

The committee has recommended that a national diversity champion be appointed by the Home Secretary to lead on the issue across the police service and publish data in diversity.

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And it has called for a range of measures to be put in place in all forces, including coaching and mentoring for BME (black and minority ethnic) officers, and for selection panels to receive diversity training and have more assessors from BME backgrounds.

Picture James Hardisty, (JH1009/10k) New temporary Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police Dee Collins.

The latest figures show that all four Yorkshire police forces are less ethnically diverse than the populations they serve, with North Yorkshire Police one of four forces nationwide to employ no black officers at all.

Just 5.1 per cent of West Yorkshire Police’s officers are from a BME background, compared with 18.2 per cent of the population.

The percentages at North Yorkshire Police (1.1 per cent), South Yorkshire Police (3.3 per cent) and Humberside Police (1.1 per cent) are only a third of that in the areas’ general population.

Despite improvements in recent years, no police force nationwide has a BME representation which matches its local population, and 11 of the 43 have no BME officer above the rank of inspector. There are also no BME chief constables.

Picture James Hardisty, (JH1009/10k) New temporary Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police Dee Collins.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz 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.”

Giving evidence to the committee earlier this year, West Yorkshire Police chief constable Dee Collins said her force was taking on 600 new officers in the next year after being challenged over her force’s lack of recruitment from ethnic minority groups.

Asked how many BME officers had been taken on in her 22-month tenure, she replied, “very few”, adding that Government budget cuts in the last five years meant the force had lost 1,100 officers and found it very difficult to recruit.

The force has introduced a Positive Action Co-Ordinator role to help recruit, maintain and promote under-represented groups. Pc Amjad Ditta, who joined West Yorkshire Police in 2005 as a Police Community Support Officer before joining as a police constable, recently took on the role.

The issue of four forces, including North Yorkshire Police, not employing any black officers was raised last year by Home Secretary Theresa May.

North Yorkshire Police said in a statement: “We do currently employ a number of Asian and mixed race officers from PC to Superintendent rank, and black, Asian, Chinese and mixed race police staff, but recruitment in North Yorkshire faces several challenges.

“The region has a small black population and the geographical size of the county means people from out of the area have to travel far to get to work.”

West Yorkshire Police said it wanted to address diversity as part of its new recruitment plans.

The force’s Temporary Chief Constable Dee Collins, said: “It is fair criticism to say that the service has generally struggled to increase representation, both in terms of recruitment and retention of officers. As we are now recruiting 600 officers, 300 of those additional to our current number, it is an ideal opportunity to make progress.

“I urge communities and individuals to help us make that difference.”