Police forces that reflect the communities they serve are crucial to cutting crime in a modern diverse society and to ensuring the public have trust and confidence in the police.
While there is a greater proportion of women and black and minority ethnic (BME) officers than ever before, this government has been clear that it is committed to building a Britain that works for everyone and that racial disparities in our public services must be addressed.
Last week, the Metropolitan Police’s latest recruits passed out in a parade in Hendon. It was hugely encouraging to see that of the 311 recruits, 79 were from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. The Met now has over 4,000 BME officers and I congratulate it on the hard work it is doing to encourage diversity, and the example it is setting for other police forces.
The police service has made real improvements in promoting diversity in recent years and there is now a greater proportion of women and BME officers than ever before. This has been down to the dedication of police forces and to the government’s reforms which have allowed for faster progress on equality and diversity, with police and crime commissioners (PCCs) and the College of Policing playing an integral role.
Ensuring there is greater transparency across the 43 police forces is a key element in driving improvement. In 2015, the government published more accessible police workforce diversity data on police.uk for the first time, to enable the public to easily compare how representative their force is against the local community. This information will be published each year to enable the public to hold their local PCCs and chief constables to account.
The latest data for England and Wales published in July, highlights the improvements that have been made, with 7,218 or 5.9 per cent of police officers across the police forces in England and Wales now coming from a BME background.
What is crucial, however, is that policing continues to encourage a more diverse workforce. In 2015/16, of the 4,304 officers who joined the 43 police forces, 12 per cent identified themselves as BME, an increase compared with the 10 per cent in the previous year.
And while the government can set expectations through our commitment to increasing diversity in police recruitment to make it a profession where everyone has a fair chance to go as far as their hard work and talent permits, we are clear that it is local police leaders and their representatives at the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) who are best placed to drive these improvements. This includes PCCs holding police chiefs to account and taking an active role in ensuring that there is BME representation in their police force.
The College of Policing is currently in the middle of the BME Progression 2018 programme which all police forces have signed up to. As part of this initiative, each force has their own plan to address recruitment, retention and progression of officers from BME and other under-represented groups in policing.
The College is supporting these ambitions through the implementation of its Leadership Review. This includes recommendations that will support sustainable improvements to representation, for example by standardising promotion processes to all ranks, introducing more flexible careers and national advertising of roles.
Innovative schemes such as Direct Entry, Fast Track and Police Now are also doing their part to make the police workforce more diverse; showing that we can attract the brightest and best into policing, while introducing new perspectives into policing some of the country’s most challenging neighbourhoods.
On my first day as minister for policing, I was lucky enough to attend Police Now’s Summer Academy, in which its latest batch of graduates was sworn in. Inspired by Teach First and a flagship Metropolitan Police scheme, it places top graduates in some of the country’s most challenging neighbourhoods where they can have the greatest positive impact working as neighborhood officers. This year the scheme was extended to six other forces across the country including Cheshire, Lancashire, Northamptonshire, Surrey, the Thames Valley and the West Midlands. Of the 2016 intake, 20 per cent were BME individuals, and more than half were female.
These are all important steps that the police have been taking and the consistent improvements we have seen in recent years are transforming this effort into positive outcomes.
However, more can be done.
Increased diversity is not an optional extra for policing, but rather it goes to the heart of this country’s historic principle of policing by consent and the government’s commitment to a Britain that works for everyone.
Last month, prime minister Theresa May launched an audit of the public services to reveal racial disparities. This will mean all government departments publishing information showing how outcomes differ for people of different backgrounds, in a range of areas including health, education, employment and criminal justice.
We cannot expect to maintain public confidence and cut crime in a modern diverse society without a modern and diverse police force. More than ever, diversity is an important part of operational effectiveness.
As policing minister, I will continue to encourage police forces to rise to this challenge.