Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bobbies, they're getting whiter

For some time it has been the mantra in official circles that whilst once there was racism in the police force this was the 'bad old days' and things are much better now. Where the odd rotten apple turns up these are the exceptions rather than the rule.

However, new figures show that since the start of the war on terror the number of ethnic minorities willing to join the police force has slumped.

Five years ago there were 795 BME (''Black and Minority Ethnic') recruits to the police nationally. The year just gone there were a mere 430, that's almost half the previous figures and cuts against the official story that the police force has become a more habitable place for ethnic minority officers.

When we unpick those figures however we notice something even more worrying - the decline in BME recruitment is almost entirely due to the Metropolitan Police Force who in 2003-4 recruited 500 BME officers, and in 2007-8 recruited only 193, a drop of 307 which accounts for the vast majority of the 365 national reduction.

Now this was all under the watch of Sir Ian Blair who is supposedly one of the country's "most progressive police officers", a statement which I've never been able to square with his approach to our civil liberties and the war on terror.

As I reported in October "The Metropolitan Black Police Association said that the Met was "a hostile atmosphere where racism is allowed to spread and those who challenge it are either suspended, told to shut up or subtly held back in relation to career development."" and have begun to actively discourage potential BME recruits to the force until it gets its house in order, which could go n to hit BME recruitment even harder.

After the Steven Laurence Inquiry the term institutional racism became a kind of bench mark with those who wanted to address the real problems that existed within the Met and also those who thought combating racism was just another example of political correctness gone mad. It's clear that some officers developed a victim mentality around the term which possibly helped to entrench some of the problems rather than address them.

Although the Inquiry did make some progress the police reaction to the war on terror, and the July 7th bombings in particular hasseen the divide between ethnic minorities and the police widen at the very time it needed to be healed.

Sir Ian Blair bears a double responsibility for these figures as both the police chief in charge of the national response to terrorism and as the head of the Met. whose figures have been particularly worrying. Let's hope that his replacement takes these figures as the wake up call required to root out racism within Britain's policing and heal the rifts that have developed with parts of our community.


weggis said...

This is the sort of report that really, really worries me. If an identifiable group are under represented in one sphere of society, then by definition they MUST be over represented somewhere else; they don’t just disappear. According to the BNP only 2% of our society is made up of blacks, but they are 14% of the prison population. And take at look at Premier League Football teams.
Try persuading some of them to give up their £80,000 per week to be a Constable.

I just feel that this is a far more complex situation than “Racism in the Met” which is not born out by my own personal dealings with the Police locally.

Jim Jay said...

First of all the figures are about the numbers of BME recruits *declining* so it's comparing like with like over a five year period.

What's happened over the last five years in London to produce this extraordinary shift?

The 300 odd BME people who did not join the Met last year who would have five years ago are not all playing in the Premier Division or in jail - I suspect that's pretty obvious.

The not so complex answer is this has been i) Sir Ian Blair's tenure and ii) the war on terror. If you have a different explanation that doesn't presume that black people are either sportsmen or jailbirds please present it.

Weggis - when did you start taking figures the BNP spout on race at face value? I would have thought that was a rather unrealiable source - no?

weggis said...

Okey Dokey Jim. I would not have “spouted” the BNP figures if I had not also seen similar [if not exactly the same] reported elsewhere by reliable objective reports.

So, let me take up your point. If you have a recruitment drive for BME peeps [or any other defined group] there WILL come a time when that recruitment drive slows down. The closer you get to the objective, the more difficult it becomes to reach. That this may be co-inciding with other factors does not necessarily mean that they are the prime mover although they may well be having some effect. Without any objective analysis and evidence it is just heresay or conjecture.

The real question is not the rate at which BMEs are being recruited, but how close we are getting to a decent representation of BMEs in the Police. THAT is the point that you have not covered in your report.

Jim Jay said...

Weggis - For clarification I was quite careful in how I worded this. It's the BNP I accused of spouting, not you.

On the other point: Well to maintain a representative number of BME officers you'd have to maintain the intake, which is not happening. It has never been the case that recruitment of BME officers has been in proportion to BME in the community.

However after the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry there was an increase and people were hopeful that the force would become more representative - these figures are very disappointing in that light.

This article on the BBC says that the targets that inquiry set for recruiting black officers was falling well short (in 2004)

This more recent piece by Andrew Gilligan says that, to be portionate, there would need to be three times as many black officers as there are at present.

According to a debate on the... wait for it... first of April... in the House there were 1216 officers recruited to the met in 2006-7, we'll have to assume the same ball park for the following year when 193 of them were BME. That's 15.8% in a community where 26.2% of people are BME.

These figures are slightly mix and match due to time and difficulty in finding accurate sources.

What clear is that with drastically declining BME recruitment we are not approaching tripling the number of BME officers and we have to address why that decline has taken place.

weggis said...

I didn’t take offence, Jim.

I do think that from a start of 180 BME officers to 2,600 now [in the Met, Gilligan report] is an achievement worth noting although it is still only 8% of the total. That’s a big increase and should not be undervalued.

I am not a fan of quotas and would not expect to have proportionality in every sphere of society. The important thing is to determine whether there are any barriers or inhibitors that exclude certain groups from such areas of work.

This has to look at both the receptor organisation as well as the culture and attitudes of the donor group.

The fact is that if we wish to live in a multi-cultural society, the colour of a Policeman’s skin and the person he or she stops and searches should be as irrelevant as the colour of their hair or eyes [identification purposes excepted].