Wake-up call for UK plc as police fail to tackle racism

The landmark report criticising the approach to racial diversity in the police should act as a wake-up call for all organisations to ensure managers are properly prepared for their roles, experts have warned.

The Commission for Racial Equality’s investigation into racism in the police service in England and Wales found widespread failings in police middle management. The report called middle management in the force the “ice in the heart of the police”, with willingness to change at the top not translating into action lower down.

Sir David Calvert-Smith, who led the investigation, said institutional racism was not necessarily the cause. Rather, many managers did not have the necessary people management skills as they were selected almost exclusively on their operational abilities.

“When [managers] are appointed they are not given the training necessary to understand the new problems that they will face as managers so they are ill-equipped to deal with the sort of problems that arise,” said Calvert-Smith.

He said that this meant contentious issues such as race complaints could easily be blown out of proportion.

Dianah Worman, diversity adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said that because line managers are fundamental to change in any organisation, they have to be given help understanding their roles.

“This is not just about legal obligations, it is about personal relationships and understanding why people behave in a particular way,” she said.
The Chartered Management Institute has been helping deliver the core leadership development programme at the Central Police Training and Development Authority since April last year.

CMI spokesman Mike Petrook said organisations must make sure their managers have on-the-job experience balanced with management development training.

“With added responsibility must come added ability,” he said. “There is a clear link between management development and organisational performance.”

One force taking active steps to stress the importance of diversity is the West Midlands Police Service, which has introduced obligatory diversity training for all staff.

Equipping managers means continued training and briefing on diversity matters and taking action where necessary, said David Williams, director of personnel at the West Midlands force.

“This creates a workforce which is confident enough to say ‘that is not good enough’ if something inappropriate happens,” he said.

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