On 21 October 2015, at the National Black Police Association conference, Home Secretary, Theresa May condemned the lack of black officers within the police service across England & Wales.
Will the public really not have confidence in the police if there are not enough Black and Asian officers? So what Mrs May is trying to say is that the police service is predominantly characterised by White officers. But is that trying to say that the public don’t have trust and confidence in White officers? – I don’t think that is the case.
There is a shortage of Black and Asian officers, the British police service does need to be more representative of its communities. However, I do not see a correlation between the number of BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) officers and the confidence which the public have in the police.
The budget cuts and the cuts to the police service are ultimately a deciding factor for police forces to recruit more officers. With this carries a burden to promote positive action, note the difference between positive action and positive discrimination – as a rule of thumb, positive discrimination is illegal. Treating one person more favorably than another on the grounds of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender etc. is unlawful. On the other hand, positive action allows disadvantaged groups obtain further support and guidance, however, employers are still not permitted to discriminate in the selection of candidates.
The question lies as to what isn’t being done to promote the police service to BME communities? What if it is trust and confidence in the first place? It is only in recent years that more and more individuals have joined the police service without having any other family members in the police. Previously, it was a family thing, a norm and an expectation. A son would apply to join the police, his father would be in the police and his grandfather may have retired from the police. Now, its very much a culture change, the police service is adapting. There are more migrants coming to the UK, take a look at the current Syrian crisis, given the circumstances, over the next 10-20 years, there will be a transition of new cultures bringing value to the UK, meaning the police service has to adapt to those changes and deal with new problems, people from different backgrounds and cultures. You are probably thinking that they already do, yes, but how often has a White police officer understood the values, culture and tradition of a typical family from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Zambia or even the Caribbean Islands? That is where the problem lies.
It is agreed that there is an expectation for those migrating to the UK to be able to adapt to the culture and values of Great Britain, and maybe even speak English, but that is a luxury. There is more of an expectation for the Great British Bobby to be able to adapt and deal with all situations like they have done it time and time again, flawlessly, without hesitation and with understanding.
The police service in the UK is said to be one of the best in the world, why? Because of the values which it holds: Public Service, professionalism, Leadership, Decision Making and Working with Others – just to name a few. The change needs to start at the top – how many ACPO level officers are there who are of BME backgrounds? BME constables need BME leaders, someone to look up to, someone to aspire to be and someone to be inspired by. That’s not to say a non-BME leader cannot do the same, but the blunt truth is, an individual of BME decent has a broader understanding, experience and knowledge of life.
So the question is.. Will the British police service ever represent its communities? Will it ever have enough BME officers? One day. Maybe not in my lifetime.