Whose culture is operating here?
I was not aware that a report had been commissioned on a subject that has affected so many, not only black & ethnic minority officers and staff, their families, friends and the integrity and reputation of the UK Police Service.
The publication of the report in the Independent newspaper, Disproportionately in Police Professional Standards commissioned by three UK Police Services reinforces the experience and perceptions of many. No new revelations were made, however this was a scientific research using appropriate methodologies to gather the data.
What I did find interesting was the following;-
1) Having commissioned the report there now appears to be some distancing or attempts to undermine the research findings.
2) The report authors identify and define disproportionality and its manifestations numerically and procedurally.
This report cites previous reports going back to 1998, and from my personal experience this issue of black & minority officers and staff being ‘under the investigative microscope’ to a greater extent than their white counterparts goes way back. Though bme officer and staff would not voice their concerns back then, as they did not want to raise their heads any further ‘above the parapet, so left quietly accepting the judgements made about them.
What is obvious to me is how strong beliefs and perceptions, and how the culture of an organisation can manifest itself and disadvantage individuals and communities.
When a senior member of a Police Service’s Complaints & Discipline Department responds to concerns raised by writing an open letter saying “that BME officers were treated more leniently than white officers” that statement speaks volumes. What evidence did this individual have to support this?
In this report the data they collected, provided from the Police Services involved, found disproportionality in the triggers for internal misconduct investigations, particularly in respect of investigations which were as a result of a breach of legislation, as a result of complaints made by colleagues and supervisors or members of the public.
The section which explores “Dealing with difference” says ‘…it’s about the culture of the organisation. We need to develop a share understanding of what fairness is…’
So perhaps the starting point should be with the culture of the UK Police and the differences between individual Police Services. After all there have been numerous reports across at least 3 decades which have explored to some extent police culture, what it is, and how it manifests it’s; Waddington (1999), Cashmore (2001), Crank (2004), Woody(2005) and O’Neill, Mark & Singh (2007). It’s time to really start digging, digging deep and being honest and transparent if the Police Service wants to deliver a service to our communities by individuals who believe in the principles and values of policing, irrespective of who they are and what they look like.
Where those inside the organisation expect and receive the same treatment as those outside the service, and that all have confidence that this is the collective goal.
Where bme officers & staff are no longer saying that they are treated more harshly than their white colleagues, receive unjust treatment & punishment, lack support from the Police Federation or are provided with poor legal advice.
Finally, it’s important to stress this is a societal problem not just one for the Police Service as Police Officers and Police Staff are recruited from society, and I have no doubt that some of the experiences and data subject of this report could be found in other organisations in the UK.
I say this because of some of the comments published in the Independent by its readership (25/09/2012). For example ‘This is all very well, but misses out a crucial element; what proportion of those complaints were upheld or found to be justified’.
‘Oh no – the old race card again…’
‘…it can be argued that the cultural standards on corruption that the Asian & Black communities have bought with them from their home countries make it more likely that they will be expected by their communities to act in a way that our law would define as corrupt…’
Well, my home country is England, my community is diverse, however I have lived, been educated and worked in a predominantly white community.
What really is our society’s view of diversity in 2012?
These are the personal views of the author Marcia Ore MA, PGCert (Coaching) who is a serving Police Sergeant with 29 years in Policing