Legislation could ease diversity issues, MPs told
12 Apr 2016
A helpful move: Dal Babu
Senior Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) policing figures have called for the introduction of a 50/50 positive discrimination law.
Appearing before a Home Affairs Select Committee session discussing diversity on Tuesday (April 12), former Chief Superintendent Dal Babu, President of the National Black Police Association (NBPA) Janet Hills and President of the National Association of Muslim Police Mustafa Mohammed outlined their support for the introduction of legislation requiring forces to recruit equal numbers of white and non-white officers.
Similar laws were in place in Northern Ireland between 2001 and 2011 and resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of Catholic officers – from eight per cent to 30 per cent.
Mr Babu, previously the borough commander for Harrow, said a 50/50 recruitment law would be difficult to pass, but very helpful.
“I think for a limited time it would be a positive thing. I’m not sure practically it would get through Parliament,” he said.
“If you look at the hierarchy of current chief constables and police and crime commissioners (PCCs) there is not a single non-white face, this is very disappointing. Chiefs are not held to account by PCCs and the Home Office over the shape of their forces.
“Race and faith is an issue the police service struggles with. The opportunity for BME officers to grow their skillset is very limited. The number of BMEs in specialist units is significantly lower than the general number.”
In February, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) called on the Government to legislate and allow it to positively discriminate to improve recruitment of ethnic minorities.
A force spokesperson said it would support a temporary change in employment law to create a “critical mass” of BME officers.
In a speech at the NBPA conference in October, Home Secretary Theresa May said no force has a BME representation that matches its local demographic and claimed that four forces in England and Wales had no black officers at all.
Two forces – Durham Constabulary and Dyfed-Powys Police – disputed these figures.
During the meeting, Ms Hills said she would support positive discrimination if it was done “thoughtfully, not on a whim and to a similar standard to the Northern Ireland model”.
“Having a strategy in places that allows for recruitment of BME officers at the same rate as our white counterparts [would be beneficial]. Every time you employ a white officer you would then employ a black one without lowering standards,” she said.
Mr Mohammed, who represents around 2,750 Muslim police officers, said there was a “strong argument” for the introduction of positive discrimination.
Mr Babu added that, while the situation must improve, the good work forces are doing in increasing diversity must be recognised.
Home Office figures, released last year, show that the MPS had the largest proportion of BME officers (11.7 per cent), followed by West Midlands Police (8.6 per cent) and Leicestershire Police (7.2 per cent).
Cheshire Constabulary had the lowest proportion (0.6 per cent), followed by Dyfed-Powys Police (0.7 per cent) and North Wales Police (0.8 per cent).
Neither Ms Hills or Mr Mohammed said they were consulted over the College of Policing’s plans to ensure all police recruits are educated to a degree level.
Robin Wilkinson, Director of People and Change at the MPS and a member of the College of Policing Board of Directors, who also appeared before the committee, said he was “very surprised” at the lack of consultation and promised to look into it.