Police prejudice still `rife'

Equal opportunities: Damning survey says attitudes slow to change
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Crime Correspondent

Sexism and racism within the police service is rife, with an increasing number of black officers and women suffering bullying and job discrimination, according to a government report published yesterday.

The study of 13 forces by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary produces a damning picture of a police service still staffed in many areas by reactionary and prejudiced white men.

While acknowledging that "substantial" progress had been made since the last report in 1992, the Inspectorate concluded that a male "canteen culture" was prevalent. It also uncovered many stories of harassment and discrimination against civilian staff.

The study found "scepticism, tokenism and indifference" among some officers when considering the subjects of sex and race. "There are forces where a cause celebre [usually a successful legal case against the police] has been the only reason why anything has been done."

It continued: "[Interviewees] told of a rising incidence of reports of oppressive bullying.

"There was evidence of continuing high levels of sexist and racist banter, perhaps more covert and subtle than before, but no less destructive." Racism and sexism often went unchallenged by colleagues and senior officers, the Inspectorate said.

It also reported that attempts were being made to bring in better equal opportunities but "entrenched attitudes continue to frustrate or dilute their best efforts".

Thirteen police forces were inspected last year as part of the survey. They were West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Bedfordshire, Devon and Cornwall, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Lincolnshire, Northumbria, North Wales, South Yorkshire, Surrey, and Wiltshire.

The Inspectorate found that the small rise in the recruitment of women and ethnic minority officers was tempered by the fact that their promotion was slower than that of their colleagues. Of the 124,000 police officers in England and Wales 1.7 per cent are from ethnic minorities - 0.2 per cent in Scotland - compared with 5.2 per cent and 1 per cent in the respective economically active populations. Women make up 23 per cent of the service, compared with about 50 per cent of the national workforce.

Britain's first female chief constable was appointed last year, but the number of women holding senior ranks is still very small and there are no black officers above the rank of superintendent.

Black officers and women had little faith in the official complaints system. "Many felt that anyone who raised issues would be denigrated, ignored or dealt with inappropriately," said the Inspectorate.