Police must reflect society

POLICE forces have striven for years to throw off their old image of being intolerant and racially prejudiced, Indeed, following that key verdict in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, when the Metropolitan Police were accused of being institutionally racist, forces across the country have worked tirelessly to dispel the old stereotypes.

So it is frustrating for everyone when stark statistics are produced which show how little the police have changed in the ethnic make-up of their senior officers over the past few decades, a period in which Britain has changed fundamentally, transforming from white monoculturalism to become an astonishingly diverse, multi-racial society.

In a dispiriting illustration of how Yorkshire’s own forces, at least, are failing to match this trend, analysis by this newspaper has shown that, across the region, none of the 50-plus officers at Chief Superintendent level or above are from a non-white background. In West Yorkshire, for example, where 18 per cent of the county’s population is non-white, only three per cent of officers at inspector level or above reflect this.

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It is understandable, then, that questions are inevitably asked as a result of these figures, about why non-white officers – who are increasingly represented at lower levels – are less likely than their white colleagues to progress through the ranks and consequently about how this failure to reflect the communities they serve affects the police’s very legitimacy.

As so often when faced with criticism, the forces themselves are keen to play the austerity card, insisting that budget cuts have restricted their recruitment policies. But even if this were the case, it would not explain how they have also affected certain officers’ promotion prospects.

Whatever the reasons, however, it is important that they are identified and rectified as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the suspicion will linger that, despite decades of equality initiatives, police attitudes have changed very little.

Labour’s pains: Problems deeper than Miliband

IF THE knives are out at last for Ed Miliband within the Labour Party, there is still no sign of anyone plucking up the courage to plunge them into the leader’s back.

Unlike the cold-eyed Conservatives, of course, Labour is historically reluctant to depose its own leaders, but it is not merely traditional decency that is deterring any of Mr Miliband’s potential successors from actually doing the deed.

The Labour leader may have presided over a plummeting poll lead, while his personal ratings sink far lower. He may have made matters even worse by issuing a public plea for Labour MPs to back him.

But what poisoned chalice awaits his successor? Trying to marshall a fractious party, devoid of meaningful policy and now losing its traditional supporters to the Scottish Nationalists and the UK Independence Party, and transform it into an election-winning machine that could win a parliamentary majority in six months’ time? It could still be achieved, but no one, so far, is willing to risk their long-term career in order to prove it.

In the end, though, the party’s problems run far deeper that Mr Miliband’s inadequacy.A party where the name of Tony Blair, the most successful leader in Labour history, has become one that few dare utter is a party with a serious identity crisis.

And the fact that Mr Miliband forgot to mention the budget deficit in his conference speech only served as another indicator that a party whose very existence is predicated on public spending has failed miserably to redefine itself in an era where there is no money left to spend.

These problems, it is increasingly clear, will not be alleviated under Mr Miliband. But until they are resolved, Labour will continue to flounder regardless of whose name is on the leader’s office door.

Casualties of war: Remembrance a year-long event

CONSIDERING that this Remembrancetide coincides with the centenary of the First World War, so poignantly recalled by the sea of poppies at the Tower of London, it is understandable that attention has been focused on the slaughter of those terrible years.

It is far from disrespectful to the victims of 1914-18, however, to take time to think of the tolls inflicted by other, more recent conflicts. In fact, it is one of the reasons for remembrance.

Nor is it a bad thing to be reminded that death is not the only sacrifice made by those who have given service to their country. Injury, illness, penury and homelessness can all be among the consequences of dedicated military service.

And it is good to be reminded by the case studies featured in The Yorkshire Post today of the help offered by the Royal British Legion to alleviate such problems.

The good work of the Legion is not confined to this time of the year. On the contrary, like the act of remembrance itself, it is a reminder that the sacrifices of war never go away.