Police urged to show as much commitment to diversity as critical incidents
Police forces should approach the challenge of improving diversity with the same urgency as they respond to critical incidents, a new blueprint for chief officers suggests.
The “toolkit” has been drawn up as part of the latest push to boost the numbers of female and black and minority ethnic (BME) personnel across the service.
It proposes a host of measures, including the appointment in each constabulary of a lead officer to oversee their organisation’s efforts.
Those assigned to the posts would be encouraged to approach increasing diversity with the same level of commitment as critical incidents, the National Police Chiefs’ Council said.
It also suggested forces could set up “gold groups” in recognition of the “critical nature” of the issue.
Gold groups are convened in response to major incidents or high-profile cases which have a major bearing on public confidence.
Other possible steps include “positive action” measures such as proactively seeking out candidates from under-represented groups and increasing flexible working to take into account childcare commitments and religious or cultural events.
The NPCC also published a new strategy, which all chief constables have signed up to.
Under the plan, senior personnel will be assessed on their efforts to improve diversity within their operational command as part of the annual appraisal process.
Latest figures show that at the end of March, 7% of officers in England and Wales were BME.
This was the highest proportion since records started but it is still an under-representation as 14% of the wider population is BME.
There also continues to be a significant under-representation of women in the police workforce, with 30% of all officers female as of March.
The national policing lead for diversity admitted progress has been too slow.
Chief Constable Gareth Wilson said: “Having a police force that is more representative of the communities it serves is an operational imperative.
“We need officers and staff who are able to respond quickly to the changing demographics of local communities, overcome language barriers and bring a deep knowledge of certain cultures.
“It is proven that more diverse teams make better decisions and innovate more.
“Progress has already been made with more women and black, Asian and ethnic minority officers and staff now than ever before but the pace of change has so far been too slow.”
Mr Wilson said the strategy and toolkit will help forces “make better use of the talents and skills of people from all backgrounds”.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution as no two communities are the same, he added.
Policing Minister Nick Hurd said that while forces have made “good progress”, it is an “uncomfortable truth” that they do not fully represent the communities they serve.
He said: “I’m pleased to see that chief constables are committed to achieving this goal.”
Tola Munro, President of the National Black Police Association, said: “Race is given a clear priority as promised, which we hope will ensure policing legitimacy, reflect operational necessity, and improve community engagement.”
He added that the association will monitor the toolkit as a “critical friend”.
Chief Constable Dee Collins, lead for the British Association of Women in Policing, said: “This strategy places responsibility on all of us to improve our representation within policing, which will help to build understanding, trust and confidence in policing.
“While it is pleasing to see increasing numbers of women joining the service, there is still a great deal to do across the diversity spectrum and it’s crucial that we do this together.”