Black and Asian officers in West Midlands Police are almost four times more likely to be suspended from duty compared with their white colleagues, according to a published report.
In the last 12 months black and Asian officers were also twice as likely to be subject to conduct investigations likely to result in suspension, sacking or even criminal proceedings. Campaigners said the report provided the best evidence as to why only one of WMP’s 162 new recruits is black.
The overall number of allegations against Black and Minority Ethnic officers was small “but both black and Asian Officers were subject to a higher proportion of conduct allegations than was the case with White Officers. The internal report said the disproportionality “requires further investigation”.
Of the 95 officers suspended during the last five years 22 are black or Asian (23 per cent) yet BAME officers make up around six per cent of a force that covers the second most ethnically diverse region in the UK behind Greater London. White officers, who make up 91 per cent of WMP’s 7,000 officers, accounted for 73 suspensions (77 per cent).
There are 22 officers currently suspended from duty – 16 white, two black and four Asian. “Although suspension itself is a neutral decision, it invariably follows allegations of gross misconduct or criminal proceedings,” the Disproportionality in Police Complaints and Discipline report said.
It separated ‘complaint’ cases, where 94 per cent result in no action, with ‘conduct’ cases. In 2014-15 there were 457 officers subject to conduct allegations. Of these 386 related to white officers (84.5 per cent) and 60 to black and Asian (13.1 per cent) officers.
Formal action was taken against 11 black and Asian officers (14 per cent), 65 white officers (84.5 per cent) and one whose ethnicity is ‘other’. In two cases the Asian officer retired or resigned while the remaining cases were either dealt with by ‘management action’ or ‘no action’.
The report suggested one contributing factor could be the fact a higher proportion of BME officers are asked to patrol areas with higher crime rates, such as Birmingham East and Central, and Coventry.
A spokesman for Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said he had been monitoring the issue for some time and requested an annual update, which the force provided.
The disproportionality report comes just days after the Independent revealed BAME people in the region are up to three times more likely to be victims of alleged police brutality.
There are 229 cases being investigated involving 450 officers over allegations of alleged police assault. Ethnicity has been recorded in 146 cases, of which 71 complainants are white and 69 black or Asian, a ratio of almost 50-50. The West Midlands region is 83 per cent white and 14.4 per cent black and Asian, meaning BAME people were more than three times likely as white people to complain of police assault.
Birmingham-based activist Desmond Jaddoo said: “The treatment of BAME officers in West Midlands Police has been a cause of concern for a number of years. It’s good to see that the force is finally acknowledging this through their report but we need to know more – such as the nature of the charges against these officers.
“The way in which West Midlands treats its officers and the way in which their officers behave is the only recruitment ad they require. The fact only one black officer joined from 162 recruits last month reflects the current state of the advert. It needs addressing in a positive way.”
Deputy Chief Constable Dave Thompson said: “Any allegation against officers or staff working for the force is taken very seriously and is investigated thoroughly by the Professional Standards Department.”
He said the force, along with the PCC, reviews disproportionately as part of the complaints process. “Policing is often carried out under difficult conditions and officers do have to use force as part of their work, on occasion this can result in complaints. We expect the highest standards from all staff and where behaviour does not meet these expectations the appropriate action is taken, working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service and the Independent Police Complaints Commission where necessary.”
Chief Superintendent Andy Nicholson, head of WMP’s Professional Standards Department, said: “The IPCC has praised West Midlands Police’s diversity monitoring with both the ethnicity of complainants and officers subject of complaints being routinely recorded. As part of our routine monitoring of this issue, we have identified that there is currently a slight disproportionality with more black and Asian officers attracting a greater number of complaints and misconduct allegations than their white counterparts.
"While the actual number of BME officers highlighted for investigation is small we are keen to understand the reasons for this.”