Head of police action plan on race has ‘never seen’ an officer being racist

‘Clearly there are incidents of racism happening in policing, all I’m saying is that I haven’t personally seen them,’ says senior officer

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Friday 19 November 2021 17:17
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<p>The action plan was announced in June 2020 after Black Lives Matter protests </p>

The action plan was announced in June 2020 after Black Lives Matter protests

The head of a national police action plan on race has said she has never “personally seen” an officer been racist.

Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Amanda Pearson said she “couldn’t readily think of an example” of racism in the force, which saw an officer convicted of joining a neo-Nazi terrorist group this year.

She is leading a “plan of action on inclusion and race” announced by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) after the murder of George Floyd in the US sparked huge Black Lives Matter protests in Britain.

Speaking at a NPCC conference in Westminster on Friday, Ms Pearson was pressed on whether she had witnessed any incident involving colleagues being racist throughout her career.

“I’m being honest and saying I haven’t seen that,” she said. “Clearly there are incidents of racism that are happening in policing, all I’m saying is that I haven’t personally seen them.”

Ms Pearson said she was not suggesting that “racism doesn’t exist” among officers, adding: “We know there are individual acts of racism conducted by officers, we’ve seen officers dismissed from service for racist behaviour and I wouldn't deny there are disparities within policing.”

An anonymous member of the audience, which included senior officers and police and crime commissioners from across the country, asked how an action plan on race could be “led by someone who has never seen an act of racism in their entire career”.

Ms Pearson replied: “I don’t profess to have the lived experience some of my colleagues will have had in policing but I think it’s beholden on all of us to actively pursue creating a police service that can be truly anti-racist.”

She later said she had noticed that senior black and ethnic minority officers were not being given the same level of support that a white officer would have.

The action plan was announced in June 2020 but the conference was told that it was “still in draft form” and would not be released this year.

It will look at areas including police culture and inclusivity, the use of powers like stop and search, and community relations.

Andy George, president of the National Black Police Association, said he raised concerns last summer that police leaders would “delay taking action in the hope of delivery in a softer environment”.

“So 18 months on, we are yet to see any tangible actions in relation to the race action plan,” he added. “Why do some causes invoke empathy and action, but racism with hostility and inaction?”

The conference came a day after new figures showed that black people are stopped and searched at a rate seven times higher than white people in England and Wales.

Abimbola Johnson, who chairs an independent panel scrutinising the NPCC’s action plan, said police leaders must admit that institutional racism exists in order to tackle it.

“Institutional racism is built within processes, it’s unconscious, unintentional,” she told the conference.

“Somebody from the police needs to stand up and admit that the police are institutionally racist … people shouldn’t feel a backlash for using the word racism and calling it what it is.”

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