Police forces have failed to bring in enough black talent and ensure they reach senior positions, the lead for tackling racism within policing has said.
Sir David Thompson, chief constable of West Midlands Police, is one of 40 police chiefs that have come together to develop an action plan to stamp out racism and discrimination within UK forces.
He told BBC Newsnight that although forces were seeing more people join policing, they had not seen much interest in policing roles from black people and only two black police officers had reached the rank of chief constable.
He added it was a shame that police forces were not “an employer of choice for many communities”.
A report published by the Home Affairs Committee last year said that only 4% of officers at or above the rank of chief inspector in England and Wales were from black and ethnic minority backgrounds in 2020.
In 2020 ethnic minority officers represented just 7% of the police service across England and Wales, far below the 14% of the population in England and Wales with an ethnic minority background.
Sir David said the action plan, to be published in April, will cover four areas including overhauling internal culture within policing; ensuring police powers are used in a non-discriminatory way; engaging young black people in how policing works so they can influence policing operations; and protecting black people against victimisation.
Discrimination and culture in policing
He said police forces will be expected to “ensure we build an inclusive culture”, “challenge bullying and racism at work” and “do the best to develop [black] talent in the police force”.
“Policing is not free from bias; it’s not free from discrimination; it’s not free from racism,” he admitted, adding that many of its policies, systems and approaches “still produce poor outcomes”.
However, he rejected the claim that policing was institutionally racist, stating this claim “[missed] the complexity of the issue”.
“It doesn’t mean the majority of people in policing are racist,” he said, but admitted there was evidence of some racist behaviours.
Earlier this year the Independent Office for Police Conduct called for the Metropolitan Police to overhaul its culture after officers joked about rape, killing black children, the Black Lives Matter movement, and people with disabilities.
The publication of the report led to Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick resigning ahead of a meeting with London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
When asked about whether a white man should be leading a policy on combating racism, Sir David said: “If we’re going to succeed in building an anti-racist police force, surely it is the people in the majority – white men – who have to be at the forefront saying this needs to change.”
It was revealed earlier this month that up to one in five police recruits had dropped out during the probation period, prompting the Police Federation of England and Wales to call for more investment in mental health and wellbeing and better benefits and training.