Creating a more inclusive police force in West Yorkshire: Challenges facing the new Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable.

bme officer

The newly appointed Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, Mark Gilmore assumes office at a time when there is an open challenge to police forces up and down the country to embrace diversity. In the face of regional challenges of institutional racism within the police force and the disproportionate and adverse treatment of BME communities, it is critical that he prioritises the restoration of confidence and trust in policing.

BME police officers in the force:
The leading proponent of the call for a radical approach to BME recruitment, the Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police Peter Fahy, has said creating a more diverse force should be a legal requirement.  Speaking on the Radio 4’s programme broadcast on Monday 4th February 2013. He said:

 “we’ve kept on trying to do what we can within the law around positive action, we’ve had leadership programmes, we’ve had positive action teams, we’ve done lots things…trouble is you’re bringing in a very small group of people and asking them to climb up the organisation …which is why we need a change in the law in terms of the interpretation of the occupational requirements … we need to give far greater importance to someone’s background. It’s not just about language skills it’s a broader understanding of certain communities.”

This call comes against a backdrop of differential and adverse treatment meted out to BME officers compared to their White colleagues within the West Yorkshire Police, as a recent JUST West Yorkshire research reveals.

Mr. Gilmore was the former Assistant Chief Constable with West Yorkshire Police between 2009-2011, under the leadership of the now discredited former Chief Constable Norman Bettison. He will recall the Telegraph exposé in 2009, which uncovered a racism row within the Force over allegations by ethnic minority officers of institutional racism. The Telegraph dossier highlighted examples of ethnic officers being treated more harshly than white officers facing identical disciplinary allegations, fabrication of evidence against black and Asian officers and bullying.

The court’s judgment against the West Yorkshire police in the case of police officer, Kashif Ahmed, provides a searing indictment of the institutional culture at the heart of West Yorkshire police. His Honor judge Benson pointed to a “very significant irregularity and impropriety at the root of the investigation.” He said the whole process was “tarnished” and “an affront to justice.” Although Mr. Ahmed was acquitted he was subjected to yet further investigation, harassment and received no apology from West Yorkshire Police and remained suspended for a further 8 months.  In contrast West Yorkshire Police Officer Mark Carter was acquitted of 3 counts of sexual assault, possession of anabolic steroids and rape returned back to work within weeks of his acquittal. Such differential treatment of police officers sends a message to any potential applicant contemplating a career with West Yorkshire Police, that the force is not a safe place for minority officers. The decision by West Yorkshire Police to continue defending Mr. Ahmed’s civil claim will not only add to his pain and suffering but will be at a cost to the taxpayer in times of austerity.

So can BME police officers expect a radical culture change with the appointment of the new Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson and the new Chief Constable Mark Gilmore? According to one BME police officer who wanted to remain anonymous, the appointments are unlikely to address institutional racism and Islamaphobia within the Force:

“The new PCC Mark Burns-Williamson was the Chair of the West Yorkshire Police Authority when the Hillsborough Panel Report was published. His public declaration of confidence in Norman Bettison despite evidence that he had implicated innocent victims in the tragedy is disgraceful. Similarly the newly appointed Chief Constable was the ACC when BME police officers were complaining of institutional harassment, racism and bullying within the Force. BME staff are not confident much will change and already this is having a knock on effect in community confidence in the Police.”

Race hate crime:
PCC Mark Burns-Williamson was a member of West Yorkshire Police Authority between 1999-2012 and in that period race hate crime has been on the increase in a context of gross under-reporting. In 2011 there were 1514 racial offences recorded by West Yorkshire Police but only 625 were detected. Black people are almost 7 times more likely to be stopped and searched under s.23 than white people in West Yorkshire.

 

The Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson will be aware of the need to repair the trust as testimonies from a wide range of minority groups and ex- BME police officers at the PCC hustings in Bradford in 2012, highlighted a clear lack of BME confidence in the West Yorkshire Police.

The latest figures of hate incidents in 2011/12 for the West Yorkshire region, highlights the prevalence of race hate, which accounts for 82% of the total number of victims.

Total Race Religion/Belief Disability Sexual Orientation Gender Reassignment Age Gender
3177 2617        77    192   272     10   7   2

Source: West Yorkshire Police/ Chief Inspector Hector Mackay

The most recent Census has highlighted that the region’s BME community has almost doubled and West Yorkshire’s Pakistani Muslim community represent the fastest growing group in the region. While in policing terms the Muslim community is particularly targeted in policing and intelligence anti-terror operations, the reality is that they are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of race-hate and Islamaphobic crime. The figures below highlight the disproportionate targeting of Asian-Pakistanis as hate-crime victims relative to their population numbers in West Yorkshire. 

  ETHNIC GROUP VICTIMS SUSPECTS
  Ethnic self TOTAL TOTAL
A1 Asian-Indian 189 19
A2 Asian-Pakistani 670 131
A3 ASIAN ‐ BANGLADESHI 22 6
A9 ANY OTHER ASIAN BACKGROUND 128 11
B1 BLACK CARIBBEAN 103 18
B2 BLACK AFRICAN 157 2
B9 ANY OTHER BLACK BACKGROUND 29 2
M1 WHITE & BLACK CARIBBEAN 71 31
M2 WHITE & BLACK AFRICAN 16 2
M3 WHITE & ASIAN 34 8
M9 ANY OTHER MIXED BACKGROUND 27 3
NS NOT STATED 251 95
O1 CHINESE 26  
O9 ANY OTHER ETHNIC GROUP 58 1
W1 WHITE BRITISH 502 916
W2 WHITE IRISH 1 13
W9 ANY OTHER WHITE BACKGROUND 93 14
  GRAND TOTAL 2379 1272

Source: West Yorkshire Police

 

Figures from the Home Office Statistical Bulletin makes it is clear that West Yorkshire trends mirror race hate-crime patterns nationally.

Hate Crime Total Race Disability Sexual Orientation Religion
260,000 136,000 65,000 50,000 39,000

Source: Hate crime, cyber security and the experience of crime among children: Findings from the 2010/11 British Crime Survey

In a recent consultation event held on the 16th January 2013 to identify priorities for the Policing Action Plan, Superintendent Paul Giannasi, from the Office of Criminal Justice acknowledged that although hate crime has a greater impact on the victim ultimately it impacts on community cohesion as it affects the wider community. Crucially it affects confidence in the police because effective police response prevents escalation of hate attacks.

However JUST West Yorkshire’s review of current race-hate reporting arrangements covering the West Yorkshire police force area discovered that they are not fit for purpose. Although JUST has not received an acknowledgement of our concerns from the West Yorkshire Police, we understand that our investigation has prompted a review of current third-party arrangements. We have written to the PCC Mark Burns-Williamson about the current status of the review and we will be reporting on the refreshed arrangements once they are in place.

In view of the disproportionate targeting of hate attacks on BME and Muslim communities, JUST West Yorkshire and the Racial Justice Network have tabled BME priorities that it expects to see incorporated in the Policing Action Plan. It is clear that police forces across the country have abandoned the ACPO Guidance for Reporting and Recording Racist Incidents, which developed a victim-based framework based on the Recommendations of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report.

It is also clear that there has been an overall failure in relation to tackling race hate crime as under-reporting continues to be an on-going problem. In order to restore the confidence of BME communities is clear that the ACPO Guidance should be re-adopted as a matter of urgent priority.

The establishment of community-based third-party reporting centres such as mosques, community centres and voluntary organisations must be re-established and adequately resourced.

The Policing Plan has to be responsive to the issues faced by BME communities in the region and the list of priorities that JUST and the West Yorkshire Racial Justice Network has tabled, offers a comprehensive template for BME priorities which must be incorporated within the Plan.

Critically both the newly appointed Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner have to address the issue of BME staff diversity and the institutional racism and Islamaphobia within their organization. A Freedom of Information request to West Yorkshire Police requesting the number of BME police officers recruited by the Force has highlighted that West Yorkshire Police has not carried out any recruiting of police officers since August 2010.

The PCC Mark Burns-Willaimson’s latest announcement that an extra 44 frontline officers will be recruited following a 3.8% rise in the police precept to pay for the officers, funded by the West Yorkshire households, offers a unique opportunity to increase the Force’s diversity. The blueprint for recruitment  cannot be imposed from the top and must be undertaken in partnership with BME officers within the Force. Unless the institutional racism and Islamaphobia that they experience is is addressed as a matter of priority, the central ethos that has guided policing in this country – policing by consent – will no longer be tenable in the context of BME communities in the region.

Ratna Lachman
Director of JUST West Yorkshire

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