'Act Positively If the Police Are to Represent Our Nation' the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Says Forces Have Made an 'Embarrassing' Lack of Progress on Attracting Officers from Black and Ethnic Minority Backgrounds. Darren Devine Asks If Positive Discrimination Creates a Level Playing Field or Sees Some People Promoted beyond Their Talents in the Name of Equality

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 31, 2013 | Go to article overview

'Act Positively If the Police Are to Represent Our Nation' the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Says Forces Have Made an 'Embarrassing' Lack of Progress on Attracting Officers from Black and Ethnic Minority Backgrounds. Darren Devine Asks If Positive Discrimination Creates a Level Playing Field or Sees Some People Promoted beyond Their Talents in the Name of Equality


ACROSS Wales and England black and ethnic minority police officers make up 3.7% of all ranks from chief constable down to constable.

But the proportion of the population in the 2011 census described as coming from Caribbean, African, Asian, Chinese, or "other ethnic groups" in England and Wales stood at 14.1%.

So to be strictly representative the 3.7% now in the police is almost four times less than what it should be.

The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Sir Peter Fahy believes years of trying to promote forces within black and ethnic minority communities have ended in embarrassing failure.

Instead, he said, if forces are truly to represent the communities they serve it's time for positive discrimination.

Only then do you begin to tackle the diversity crisis at the heart of British policing.

However former senior police officers and some race equality bodies believe any discrimination - be it positive or negative - is a mistake.

Bill Brereton, the former Deputy Chief Constable of North Wales, says using race as a factor in promotions and recruitment would cause resentment.

Mr Brereton, who while a chief superintendent on Merseyside in 1996 was given a race relations brief by the Home Office, said: "Should you give a role or job to someone merely because they are 'x'? I don't think you should.

"If you have a group or workforce whose boss is only the boss because of an accident of birth then yes I think it will lead to resentment."

David Phillips, chief executive of the South-East Wales Race Equality Council, suggested even those who would benefit from positive discrimination would have reservations.

He said: "It's likely that there are a lot of people who wouldn't understand why you were doing that and feel very uncomfortable with that.

"That could be people from all sides of the community, including the black and ethnic minority people it's supposed to help, who might say: 'I don't know whether I got this promotion because I'm being patronised or because I deserved it.'" But Sir Peter suggests it is not only about cosmetically changing the face of the police, but making it more efficient and effective.

He said: "Often we are out there resolving disputes between communities and we need officers who understand different communities and different backgrounds.

"Then there is the practical stuff about surveillance and undercover officers, we need to be a more diverse police service."

And how far is it as simple as saying we can't promote by an accident of birth? Don't police forces, to some extent, already do that? Aren't the white officers who dominate our forces at every rank there, in part, because they benefited from the accident of being born white and working for a service of which a large and influential part was once described as "institutionally racist"? Supporters also cite reforms in Northern Ireland where the Patten report made it a legal requirement that if a Protestant officer were to be recruited a Catholic had to be taken on as well. …

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'Act Positively If the Police Are to Represent Our Nation' the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Says Forces Have Made an 'Embarrassing' Lack of Progress on Attracting Officers from Black and Ethnic Minority Backgrounds. Darren Devine Asks If Positive Discrimination Creates a Level Playing Field or Sees Some People Promoted beyond Their Talents in the Name of Equality
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