Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable hails police anti-racist plan
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Bedfordshire Police’s Chief Constable has hailed a “watershed moment” for British policing with the publication of a landmark plan around race and inclusion.
Garry Forsyth, the national policing lead on race, religion and belief, has been instrumental in developing the national plan of action for policing to build trust and confidence with Black communities.
The draft Police Race Action Plan outlines a series of proposals for all forces to become anti-racist organisations and better understand Black communities.
The initial plan has been launched alongside a national survey to get the public’s view and help shape the final version of the plan, which is due for publication later this year.
Mr Forsyth said: “Policing has a difficult history in its relationship with Black communities, with historic issues, inequality and injustice continuing to blight this relationship to this day.
“Despite some progress, change has not been fast or gone far enough in terms of trust and confidence between the police and Black communities.
“Policing lags behind almost every part of the public service as an employer of choice for Black people.
“Confidence levels in policing are lowest among Black communities, and powers such as use of force and stop and search are disproportionately applied to Black communities. In some crimes, victimisation rates are higher.
“While we are among the top performing forces nationally, with a diverse workforce and low levels of disproportionality in areas like stop and search, these problems still exist here in Bedfordshire. I want us to do more to address them.
“This is a watershed moment for us all to make the historic changes we need, and I would encourage our Black communities in Bedfordshire in particular to help us make that change.”
The aim of the plan is to give police officers the tools they need to build trust and confidence with Black communities, so that they are better equipped to challenge racism and to identify and address any engrained cultural biases that may be fuelling racial disparities across policing.
It seeks to create an anti-racist culture, mindset, values, and behaviours within policing, which will inform all operational policing practice, improving the experience and outcomes for Black people.
It will also enable the lived experience of Black communities, officers, and staff to have a direct influence on police policies and practices going forward.
Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye said: “The poor experience and disproportionality that affects Black people is found across the spectrum of interactions with the police, including stop and search, use of force, victim care, and court sentencing.
“Within policing, Black people’s experiences of recruitment, retention, promotion and conduct issues are more negative than for their white colleagues.
“The data is indisputable, and despite the Macpherson report of nearly three decades ago, not nearly enough has been done by those in police leadership nationally or locally to improve these very longstanding issues.
“Despite the length of time it has taken to get to this position, I am reassured by the work that has gone into the Race Action Plan and the commitment from Chief Constables and the College of Policing to its delivery.
“I am assured that tangible change is coming. I am pleased that having acknowledged and accepted that these longstanding issues still exist, police leadership is facing up to the need to ensure that we need to do more to build trust and confidence within our Black communities, and to reduce the disproportionality that continues to exist.
“Our Chief Constable here in Bedfordshire, Garry Forsyth, has been at the forefront of driving this national change, and we all benefit from his leadership and commitment to the Race Action Plan.
“Bedfordshire Police has the lowest disproportionality rate for stop and search in England and Wales; an achievement recently recognised by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate, and is just part of the progress we have made here in Bedfordshire.
“The Chief Constable will continue to be held very firmly to account by me for how Bedfordshire Police delivers policing to all our communities.”
Superintendent Mo Aziz, co-chair of Bedfordshire Police’s Diversity Support Group as well as a cabinet member for the National Black Police Association, said: “I welcome this united commitment from our Chief Constable and Police and Crime Commissioner to drive forward this agenda and make policing here in Bedfordshire and across the country more diverse and inclusive.
“The data clearly shows how Black people experience poorer outcomes at every stage of the criminal justice system, while these poor outcomes extend to officers and staff from diverse backgrounds working in policing.
“Bedfordshire Police is still not fully representative of the communities we serve, while too many of our Black and Asian colleagues struggle to get the right opportunities to progress their career. The rate of retention is far lower among officers from diverse backgrounds.
“So the significant focus on race and inclusion through this plan of action is hugely welcome and we will work with whoever we can to make the improvements we need to see.”