New statistics published this morning reveal that black people are still largely underrepresented within the British police force, with very few occupying the top positions. Unfortunately these latest figures are not very shocking – you only have to look at the police and it is obvious how few black people are among its ranks.
In England there are three police forces (Cheshire, Durham, North Yorkshire) which do not have a single black police officer.
Within the top ranks the picture is equally dismal when it comes to diversity. Of the 43 forces in England and Wales, every single chief constable is white and 11 have no black or minority ethnic (BME) officer at chief inspector rank or above.
The need for a more diverse police force is clear – with the police’s history of tensions with the black community and racial profiliing – yet still black officers are a tiny percentage of the national police force. A more diverse police force, with members of its ranks reflecting the community they are serving, is surely a step that needs to be taken to gradually break down some of the divisions and deep mistrust that stand between the police and some black communities.
Why are there so few black police officers?
Part of the reason is perhaps also the fact that as a black police officer you are viewed as something of a traitor to the black community since for many black people the police are viewed as an institutionally racist organisation.
The death of Mark Duggan, shot by a police officer in 2011, and the aftermath of his death highlighted the extent to which a rivalry and mutual disrespect exists between the police and the black community in parts of the country.
Of course, unease between the police and black people is nothing new in Britain – the Brixton Riots and death of Stephen Lawrence being just two examples of incidents where the rift between the police and black communities has been significant in the past.
Although the police have made some efforts to recruit more black and minority ethncandidates – with job adverts specifically targeting those people – arguably more could be done.
In terms of the highest ranking jobs, allegations by minority officers have been publicly made that racial discrimination informs decisions regarding promotions.
Home Secretary is expected to address the matter of diversity and the need to do more to increase BME police numbers at the upcoming National Black Police Association Conference in Birmingham.