Police forces' race bar for top jobs condemned

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The Independent Online
Entrenched racism and sexism, barriers to promotion and discriminatory bullying are still rife in the police service in England and Wales, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary's annual report revealed yesterday.

Despite the "substantial progress" made since an equal opportunities review in 1992 the report, compiled by Sir Trefor Morris for the year 1995-96 but presented by his successor David O'Dowd, spotlights a series of areas of concern.

There is a small but continuing rise in the recruitment of female and ethnic minority officers, but progress up the promotion ladder or into specialist roles is "far slower", the report said.

There were still "entrenched attitudes" that frustrated progress, and a rise in reports of oppressive bullying. "There is a continued and unacceptable level of racist and sexist banter. While more covert and subtle than before, it is nevertheless destructive."

The report added: "Stories of harassment and discrimination against civilian staff were of particular concern, especially when accompanied by reports of unacceptable behaviour going unchallenged by peers and superiors." Lack of faith in grievance procedures was "particularly worrying".

The report urged "perspective" and that its findings should not be taken "automatically as a worsening of the position in forces, more a willingness of the police service to confront the issues". But it admitted that "the concept of a diverse workforce has been slow to take root ... Whilst the strategies and mechanisms are in the main in place, they will be ineffective unless accompanied by a shift in culture and attitudes."

The criticisms come amid a string of tribunal defeats and out-of-court settlements over harassment and discrimination.

Around 60 per cent of forces improved their clear-up rate for violent crime and more than half improved the speed of their response to emergency calls, Mr O'Dowd said. But he conceded that there was "considerable room for improvement in the detection of `volume' crime".

Only 24 per cent of reported house burglaries were detected nationwide, with Northumbria and Humberside (13 per cent) and Greater Manchester (14 per cent) recording the lowest clear-up rate. Dyfed-Powis (51 per cent), Gwent (43 per cent) and Lincolnshire (41 per cent) topped the league.

Mr O'Dowd also expressed concern about the level of sickness among front- line officers. Although the same as last year - an average of 11.9 days per officer - the report said "high levels of sickness can be a reflection of low staff morale and indicative of more serious problems elsewhere".

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