On Wednesday 27th April, the newly elected West Yorkshire Police and Crimes Commissioner (PCC) published his policing plan for 2013 – 2018.
The plan comes at a time when confidence in policing is at an all time low – not least due to the findings of the Independent Police Complaints’ Commission recent Report into the Hillsborough disaster, implicating former West Yorkshire Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison, for gross misconduct. The current Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson was the Chair of the West Yorkshire Police Authority at the time of the publication of the damning Hillsborough Report.
While Mr. Burns-Williamson was campaigning to be elected as the PCC for West Yorkshire a common refrain from BME communities was the desperate need to restore BME confidence in the region’s policing service. The published Policing Plan however does little to respond to the concerns of BME communities that were highlighted so forcefully during the PCC hustings and the Policing Plan consultation events.
Although the region’s minority ethnic communities now form 18 per cent of the region’s population, the Plan makes no mention of how it intends to address the differential treatment between BME and White police officers and staff, as well as the culture of bullying and intimidation that has led to disproportionate targeting of BME officers in criminal litigation cases – both discussed in an open letter to Williamson which we featured in a previous bulletin. BME organisations in the region made an open call to the PCC to identify effective measures to promote the recruitment, retention and progression of BME staff within West Yorkshire; in keeping with the calls of Greater Manchester Chief Constable Peter Fahy to make a more diverse police force a legal requirement. Our open letter challenged the PCC to challenge the institutionally racist culture within the Force through establishing an in-house BME-support/advisory group directly reporting to the office of the PCC as well as establishing an independent race review. None of these concerns are reflected in the policing plan.
Similarly the Plan is silent on calls by the BME community to introduce comprehensive measures to stop the indiscriminate targeting of BME communities in stop and search operations. In the 12 months to August 2012, while arrest rates for White and Black people were the same, only 8 out of every 1000 people were stopped and searched by the Police while the figure for Black people was 42 out of every 1000.
The Policing Plan also fails to address the results of JUST’s review of current hate-crime arrangements which we found to be unfit for purpose.
Mark Burns-Williamson’s plan provides little evidence that there is a serious will to bring about a change in the institutional racism, which for long has plagued the West Yorkshire police force. Below is an illustration of the key issues the policing plan covers vis-à-vis racial equality, as well as those issues highlighted by BME organisations at various consultation events, which have been overlooked and neglected.
Against the background of a politicised PCC role, the loss of confidence in policing following the Hillsborough disaster and a historical strain in relationships between the police and minority communities, it is imperative that the PCC starts building bridges of trust and confidence, particularly among those communities who have been disadvantaged by unfair policing practices – Not doing so would render rhetorical the PCC’s call to work with communities to develop a responsive service.
JUST West Yorkshire and the West Yorkshire Racial Justice Network are calling on the PCC to develop a consultation and scrutiny framework so that minority communities can be confident that they are served by a police force that is fit for purpose and understands their needs.