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Police recruits given guidance on avoiding bias

SCOTLAND YARD yesterday issued a new manual aimed at ridding police recruits of racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of prejudice.

The Metropolitan Police handbook, also intended to improve equal opportunities in the male dominated force, was welcomed by civil liberty and equal opportunity groups who hope it will be adopted by other forces and read by all ranks.

Focusing on Fair Treatment For All aims to tackle lack of knowledge and understanding about the capital's cultural diversity. It confronts all forms of discrimination, giving officers clear advice on, for example, how to address people with disabilities, the religious and cultural reasons why Rastafarians smoke cannabis, and why Aids is a problem for everyone.

Its no-nonsense text spells out that words such as 'Doris' and 'spade' to describe women or black people are always totally unacceptable, but it is also asks officers to examine, for example, the effect of constantly referring to female officers as 'girls'. It warns against the dangers of stereotyping.

It also gives a simple history of immigration and settlement, and of religious and cultural backgrounds, in order to help greater understanding and awareness. Highlighting that black people in a white-dominated culture are likely to have encountered much discrimination, it asks officers to question how they might feel coming from a similar background.

The Metropolitan Police is seeking to increase the number of women and those from ethnic minorities on its workforce. Currently, of the 28,000 officers, 3,758 are women and 570 from ethnic minorities. It is not known how many police are gay, because fear of prejudice means most chose not to reveal their homosexuality.

The Metropolitan Police hopes the 200-page manual - which was written by officers at the Recruit Training School at Hendon, and which took nearly a year to research and produce - will help wider recruitment as well as improve relationships with the public. There have been constant allegations, particularly of racism, within the force.

Dr Peter Sanders, chief executive of the Commission for Racial Equality, said yesterday: 'We are extremely impressed with this handbook, which clearly demonstrates that the Metropolitan Police service is taking the issue of equal opportunities very seriously.'

Chief Superintendent Colin Shew, head of the Recruit Training School, said: 'This document forms the cornerstone of our equal opportunities training.

'Officers leave Hendon to police a multicultural and richly varied society in London, and this handbook opens the door to many of the issues, people and problems they will face during their careers.'