Black Lives Matter: UK police leaders announce ‘plan of action’ to address racial inequality after protests

Police chiefs say they will ‘use this defining moment to drive lasting changes’

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 18 June 2020 18:52 BST

British police leaders are drawing up a “plan of action” to address racial inequalities in the criminal justice system following the death of George Floyd in the US.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said it aimed to address concerns over stop and search, the use of force and under-representation of black and minority ethnic officers.

The plan is being drawn up by the College of Policing and senior police officers, including “chief officers with experience of being people of colour”.

It is expected to be completed in July and groups from outside policing, including anti-racism and human rights organisations, will be able to take part in a consultation.

The announcement came a day after a former police officer told MPs that racism was “alive and kicking” in British policing.

Nick Glynn told the Home Affairs Select Committee: “These things are happening on a daily basis and we are kidding ourselves if we think that since the Stephen Lawrence report’s recommendations we have made massive progress.”

The chair of the NPCC, Martin Hewitt, said officers were “listening to the national debate” and the more than 220,000 people who have joined Black Lives Matter protests across the UK in recent weeks.

“We rightly pride ourselves on a police service that is of the community, and polices with the consent of that community,” he added.

“What has become clear is that for some of our staff, and for some of our communities, that is not how it feels. We need to act now.”

He said racial disproportionality in policing and police tactics were “not new” and had complex causes.

“Progress has been made, but we fear it is not enough, and change is not moving as quickly as it needs to,” Mr Hewitt added.

“The plan of action must be developed and delivered with the help of all parts of the service, and with the support and challenge of our communities – particularly people of colour.

“We police in an imperfect world and we cannot solve all its issues. We are incredibly proud of our police service and the people in it, but we must always strive to improve and we must use this defining moment to drive lasting changes.”

Ongoing protests have drawn attention to the disproportionate use of force, particularly involving Tasers, against black men in the UK, as well as stop and search and custody deaths.

Police data shows that coronavirus fines have been given to disproportionately high numbers of black and Asian people, who are also more susceptible to dying from Covid-19.

The NPCC has committed to publishing its analysis of ethnicity data from the 43 police forces in England and Wales when it is complete.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, welcomed the plan and added: “It is critical that communities have faith in the police and feel that they serve everybody equally, as well as ensuring police officers from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds consider policing an inclusive service.”

The government has been heavily criticised for setting up a new commission on racial inequalities, rather than acting on recommendations made by previous reports, including the 2017 Lammy Review.

David Lammy, a Labour MP who conducted the review and is now shadow justice secretary, said the plans were “written on the back of a fag packet” to “assuage” anti-racism protests.

Senior figures including the head of the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which investigates racism allegations, custody deaths and police brutality, had urged police leaders to listen to Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

Black Lives Matter billboard unveiled in London

Last week, the president of the National Black Police Association (NBPA) told The Independent that protests were forcing the service to confront longstanding issues over the treatment both of minority ethnic officers and the public.

“I hope that 21 years on from the Macpherson Report and 27 years on from Stephen Lawrence’s death, we may be seeing a watershed moment for British policing,” Sgt Tola Munro said.

“We will look at 2020 as the year when things started to change.”

The most recent data shows that just under 7 per cent of police officers in England and Wales are from ethnic minorities, less than half the figure in the general population.

Numbers are increasing slowly, mostly because of a larger proportion of non-white officers joining as new recruits.

However, there are vast differences between groups. Of the approximately 8,300 minority ethnic officers, 42 per cent classify themselves as Asian, 30 per cent as mixed, 18 per cent as black and 11 per cent as Chinese or other.

Home Office data shows that minority ethnic officers are severely under-represented in senior ranks, and they are more likely to resign or be dismissed than their white colleagues.

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