West Yorkshire Police chief constable in favour of positive discrimination to recruit more BAME police officers

The Chief Constable of Yorkshire's biggest police force has said he would support positive discrimination if it meant more BAME people joining the police.

Chief Constable John Robins, of West Yorkshire Police

John Robins, of West Yorkshire Police, said he was concerned at the lack of representation within the force following a discussion about the Black Lives Matter movement in a meeting, expressing frustrations at legal guidelines in recruiting candidates based on ethnicity.

His comments came in the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel on Friday, where police representatives and councillors discussed the impact the global movement was having on policing.

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Mr Robins said that "one good thing" that could also come out of the protests, reignited last month following the killing of George Floyd, was that "once and for all we need to apply positive discrimination to certain applicants" in the police, provided those people met the requirements for joining the force.

Around six per cent of West Yorkshire Police officers are BAME, compared to 20 per cent of the area's population

Forces across the country are currently undergoing a major recruitment drive following Home Office plans to replenish 20,000 officers lost from police since 2010.

The most recent figures from this month show that 6.1 per cent of West Yorkshire Police officers are currently BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic), compared with 18.2 per cent of the county's overall population (based on the 2011 census statistics).

This figure has however increased marginally from 4.7 per cent of officers in 2010.

Mr Robins added: "[Positive discrimination] is what happened in Northern Ireland on the basis of religion and that's what needs to happen in the police on the basis of ethnicity and underrepresented groups. However that's for legislators to change – I cannot do anything about it locally, otherwise it would be illegal and I would have done it by now.

Chief Constable John Robins, of West Yorkshire Police

"You know, in harsh terms, do we think that anything that's occurring now is actively encouraging young black men and young black women to join public services when the narrative is about institutional and structural racism and discrimination?

"So that's why, if some positive comes out of it, it's got to be that.

"I can honestly hand on heart say I think we try far harder than nearly every other public sector organisation and we learn and we adapt and we look and we listen, but we're still taking fairy steps forward and we want it to be so much more and so many more people to at least just get up to a representative group."

Leeds councillor Amanda Carter, Conservative, said; "We have got six per cent Asians in my ward and one of the reasons for them they say they don't want to join the police is pressure from their parents saying, 'no, no, no - you're going to go to University and you're going to be a doctor or a pharmacist'. One of the reasons they don't want to join the police is, a) the risk factor, and b) they don't see it as career progression. They see it as a lower sort of job than a doctor or a lawyer, and that's really sad."

She added the situation was similar to that faced by women decades ago wanting to join West Yorkshire Police but being put off by it being male-dominated, saying there needed to be "more encouragement" of BAME communities to join the police to change the levels of representation.

Coun Mohammed Iqbal, a Leeds Labour councillor, disagreed, saying he had grown up as part of a BAME community and that "may be the view of the older generations, but young people now will do what they want to do".

Commenting on the matter, Assistant Chief Constable Angela Williams said: “Although we have seen an increase in the proportion of Police Officers from a BAME background over recent years, we know we have even more work to do in order to become fully representative.

“Representing all demographics creates trust between our Officers and communities; creating positive role models and utilising the experiences and skills of Officers from a range of backgrounds and with differing life experiences.

“Similarly, this is extends to all underrepresented groups, and we have seen some great results in recent years in better reflecting our LGBT+ communities, women and those with disabilities."