In 1829 Peel’s Principles for the Metropolitan Police set out clearly the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
There is no doubt that with Black communities Peel’s test has been for a long period under stress. From Scarman, MacPherson and, more recently, the death of Dalian Atkinson and the murders of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry – there have been examples where policing has not met the expectations Black communities should have in us. The Government’s Inclusive Britain Report identifies confidence in the police has fallen fastest and is lowest in Black communities. Powers of search and force are used at a higher rate on Black people. Too few Black people see a career in policing and in some crimes Black people experience a higher rate of victimisation.
This must be a priority for us. Policing cannot be effective in reducing crime and bringing people to justice unless it improves confidence amongst Black people.
Chief Constables recognise this and want to do better and so we set out this plan. This is not, as in the past, imposed upon us through public inquiries or government policies. It is our plan of action.
We recognise policing is not free from bias, racism and discrimination. This plan does not label policing as institutionally racist but it accepts the reality that many of the people whose confidence we want to build do regard us this way and we accept there are valid reasons why they hold this view. It is incumbent upon us through this work to demonstrate that policing is not.
Saying that bias, racism and discrimination still exist in policing is not the same as characterising policing or all its officers and staff as racist.
Clearly policing is not unique in having issues of bias, racism and discrimination – it is a society-wide problem – but given our powers and essential role in society the standard for policing must be higher.
This action plan is central to our crime-fighting mission. The British principle of ‘policing by consent’ is built on the collective trust of society. With that trust comes cooperation, dialogue and crucial sharing of information that is essential for us to tackle crime.
It is a plan that seeks to build a proactively anti-racist police service, which we define as tackling racial disparities proactively, accepting them as problems whatever their cause because of the impact they have on Black people. We want to become a service that has zero tolerance to racism. A service that must explain or reform where there are disparities in our service.
A police service where our staff consistently understand the history of policing in Black communities and ensure we consider community trauma as part of the decision making in policing so we act more effectively.
A police service that wants to hear the voice of every Black staff member in policing in an annual survey. A place where they will be consistently supported if they experience racism and where they will be fairly treated in the complaints and conduct system. Most of all where their talent will be supported.
We want to ensure the work during the Uplift programme to increase diversity will become a standard for policing so that we will consistently address bias in recruitment processes.
We want enhanced oversight and scrutiny on police powers by the service and the public maximising better decision-making tools and body worn video.
Ensuring that the data we use to make judgements on disparity is consistently collected and published frequently so police leaders can be held to account.
This work supports the Inclusive Britain Report issued by the government and the recently issued report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct into the racist behaviours of officers.
The plan will now be subject to further independent scrutiny with the public, police officers and staff and experts invited to share their views before it is finalised in December 2022.
The Independent Scrutiny and Oversight Board, chaired by Barrister Abimbola Johnson, has a critical role in scrutinising the plan and its delivery.
A survey launching today will enable the public, organisations and individuals with expertise and interest in the plan and police officers and staff to share their views on the plan.
I know right from the start this plan faces challenges. Some people will feel our words and action do not go far enough and this has been too slow. Others will criticise this as woke or politically correct policing. If you come to this plan with pre-set beliefs then you will find something to criticise about it. This is a difficult space for policing to go but we have to, for our communities and our own staff.
I think this plan is about good policing. It is about building confidence in Black communities so the police are trusted to do our core role of reducing crime and bringing offenders to justice.
This work will help officers by ensuring those who do not meet the standards we need in policing are challenged. That good officers have a better understanding and insight into the reasons for distrust and know how to build it.
That policing becomes a career of choice for many more Black people because of the advocacy of those Black staff in our service.
The commitments in this plan are sincere but they are words and it is now time for action.