Last year I walked through Lozells on the march by Black officers at the National Black Police Association Conference. It was a striking moment of reflection. Quite literally people came out to watch and clap. I even saw a group of lads pull up in a car and ask one of our Black Female officers if she really was a cop. That statement made me realise how far we must travel in some communityâ€™s minds to be recognised as a diverse institution. This matters and it starts inside the force.
A core part of the People Deal is the experience of diverse staff in West Midlands Police. We want WMP to be a fair place for everyone. I believe it to be an unquestionable fact to say that those in the minority experience a generally poorer chance of being treated fairly in most organisations and society. West Midlands Police reflects our society in this regard. We are not yet a universally fair place and I believe we are further away from this with minority staff.
This matters for four reasons. Firstly the law says that we should not discriminate and we should promote diversity. Secondly it’s morally right. Thirdly it is clear and unambiguous that a diverse organization performs better. I suspect people are happier they can be themselves and they bring so much more talent. This research from Deloitte Australia and Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion may interest you.
The fourth and critical reason for me is about service. We have to be fair on the inside to be fair on the outside. People and especially diverse staff have to feel fairness to want to offer fairness.
In our values we made two explicit statements on diversity.
“I challenge unreasonable and discriminatory behaviour”Â so for me that’s the basic minimum ask. I think we see less direct or indirect discriminatory behaviour which is great, but it has not yet gone hence why this statements here. More common are thoughtless comments. Not long ago I challenge a tweet by a team who referred to arresting a youth and used his ethnic heritage. It was a great piece of police work but a statement that thoughtlessly portrayed an ethnic group in a difficult way and in a way which could reinforce prejudice by others. I also saw a recent briefing challenged for assumptions being made about a group it described. They were thoughtless and unreasonable but not intended to discriminate.
The other statement is “I want to work in a diverse team”.Â I wanted this value as it describes the challenge. Diversity should not be something to make us feel bad and guilty about because we are not there yet, (who is?). We actually have a lot to be proud of. Around 30% of new recruits are BME and 40% are women. I referred to great work on the firearms recruitment in the last blog and WMP was 71 in Stonewalls list of 100 UK top LGBT employers.
However too many of us see diversity as a political agenda, a senior leader concern or a staff network issue. “I want to work in a diverse team” is a statement that is about everyone seeing this as important and wanting to make their team more reflective. I am delighted to see this happening in firearms, CTU and also some very novel work in Public Protection who actually need to increase the male workforce in some areas.
Part of this is because many of us have come to a conclusion that we are actually fair and not personally prejudiced. Who are these people who treat people differently? It’s actually all of us!
On the 18th May we did a diversity leadership event and looked at unconscious bias with senior leaders. Â The best way of describing this is to think you have two brains. One is the primitive survival brain with your instincts. It aims to help you cope with lots going on by steering you to make instinctive decisions to keep you safe. It steers you to people like you and decisions that seem obvious. To make these decisions it is loaded with bias as it helps it move quickly. As a result it does get things wrong! It is important to ensure your conscious brain is engaged more so you make better decisions and being aware when your survival brain is kicking in. No one has a survival brain without bias or they would probably be dead. Here are some links to more info on this fromÂ The Royal SocietyÂ andÂ McKinseyLD…and here is a free tool to help you assess your own bias. Â All those involved in selection on behalf of the force will receive unconscious bias awareness.
The diversity challenge for us all is to avoid quick assumptions. Switch on the conscious mind and try to understand where we are not fair and how to be. Being fair and giving everyone equal opportunities sounds easy but it actually quite hard to ensure you get past assumptions you make. It’s why our Diversity Unit and staff networks like theÂ Black and Asian Police Association, The Disability & Carers Network, Association for Women in Policing, Christian Police Network, Association of Muslim Police, Sikh Police Association and the LGBT networkÂ are vital as they help us consciously think about how to create a fair place with diverse people.
The best example I can give for thinking harder is the changes made to the firearms fitness test for new recruits. We used to have a high fail rate for this national test for female applicants. The test was done at the start of the training course. You don’t pass you don’t get in. It is now at the end of the training and recruits are trained to reach and maintain the fitness. More pass and the standard is met and maintained. An application of conscious thinking.
Leaders have been asked to pull diversity into their People Deal work locally and will report back to me at FLC in June and in more detail at the next leaderâ€™s event in October.Â There is also more work on this at a force level, particularly in recruitment, progression, positive action and complaints. We will keep you updated.
Diversity is not someone elseâ€™s jobâ€¦ it is for all of us in all we do. Can I invite everyone to think hard about this area – I want fairness inside the force so we are consistently fair outside. I want to work in a diverse team and I am sure you do. Diversity is on the agenda for West Midlands Police whilst I am Chief. We really do have the assets and attitude to build on success and be brilliant at it.
Think about your blind spots and where you may have bias. Ask and learn to correct incorrect assumptions. Think consciously about being fair in and outside the force. Is your team fair, diverse and inclusive? Have you asked? Be comfortable talking about our challenges and addressing them that’s how we can be better.
*Please note some of the above links are only accessible to WMP employees.