We are listening to improve policing for Black people
Police Chiefs reaffirm their commitment to becoming an anti-racist service after receiving thousands of feedback responses on the Police Race Action Plan to help improve policing for Black people.
The Police Race Action Plan (the Plan) was published in draft form in May 2022, followed by a public survey, which invited members of the public, individual police officers and staff, and representatives from policing and other organisations to share their thoughts on the Plan.
The survey - one of the biggest of its kind in policing – received more than 5,000 responses, of which 10 per cent were from Black or Black British or mixed Black heritage respondents.
The Independent Scrutiny and Oversight Board (ISOB) led by Barrister Abimbola Johnson also submitted feedback on the Plan, and we received individual responses from a number of national race equity groups and organisations with an interest in and experience in race issues.
Every police force in the England and Wales collated feedback on the Plan from their officers and staff, stakeholders, and communities, which is vital in gathering a wide range of views from across policing.
All feedback will now be considered to identify the action needed to develop the Plan further and inform its implementation. The Plan will change as a result of the feedback and a final version will be published in Spring 2023.
Key findings include
The survey found respondents were divided in their views about whether the plan would have a positive impact.
Black or mixed Black respondents were more sceptical than White respondents, which is understandable given the longstanding issues related to race and racism in policing.
Respondents who worked for the police tended to have more confidence in the individual commitments than those who worked outside of policing.
There are consistently three groups in relation to confidence across all commitments and overall in the Plan – around 30% being confident, 30% not confident and 30% undecided.
In response to the question reflecting overall confidence in the Plan: ‘The Police Race Action Plan will address racial bias towards Black people in policing’, 30% of respondents were confident, 32% were undecided and 38% were not confident.
Across the commitments, respondents reported the highest confidence in the commitment that, ‘Zero tolerance of racism in policing - at a police force level’ will be achieved through the Plan.
Across the commitments, respondents reported the lowest confidence in the commitment that, ‘The development of a representative workforce’ will be achieved through the Plan.
Feedback gathered by police forces via engagement sessions with members of the public, stakeholders, and police officers and staff, showed that, overall, session participants were undecided about the Plan – they were neither ‘very confident’ nor ‘not at all confident’ in the Plan or any of its commitments.
Individual comments were provided by members of the public, stakeholders, and police officers and staff. This valuable insight is vital to ensure the plan addresses the issues respondents feel are most important.
Comments from respondents include:
“People need to see the proof of the positive changes for themselves. The fundamental plan is good overall, however some felt it to be tokenistic, which comes back to the recurring theme that people need to experience this first-hand.”
“To be clear, all the groups we have spoken to, including internal and external, believe the plan actions are correct. However, there are various levels of confidence in police having the ability to drive the change in culture and practice. It was recognised that these actions are a significant step forward.”
“They were interested in how we were going to define and measure what success looks like and ensuring there is local flexibility within the plan, reflective of local needs.”
“[The] need to learn about Black history and previous incidents like the Brixton riots. Do not believe you can eradicate a person’s prejudice, it will remain with them, but just get buried unless you educate them.”
“The Police Race Action Plan, at its core, is about good policing and knowing our communities better and the progress we are making is part of a long-term cultural shift that will leave a lasting legacy.
“Last year all Chief Constables in England and Wales signed up to the Plan, as part of a commitment to improving policing for Black people and becoming an anti-racist police service.
“Since launching it we have worked hard to ensure we’re listening to those with lived experience inside and outside policing, so we get this Plan right, as I truly believe we only have one chance to do that.
“The level of active engagement has been remarkable, and every response is valued and adds to the legitimacy of the Plan.
“As expected, the feedback survey has raised challenges that need to be addressed in the further development and implementation of the Plan.
“The individual comments provided have given us rich insight into what people feel are the most important areas for the plan to focus on in order to succeed. It’s clear that people want to see evidence of the positive changes being made, as well as ensuring the actions are fit for purpose in different local areas that may have differing challenges.
“The ISOB have played a critical role in helping us to shape the Plan and we will continue to work to improve how we listen, understand, and address the concerns of Black people, both within and the community.
“We share the ISOB Chair’s determination that this Plan will deliver tangible and systemic change and our commitment to achieving that remains firm.
“Since launching the Plan we have made progress across all workstreams that can be measured, and that will make a tangible difference to Black people’s experience of policing. This includes the development of an annual ethnicity pay gap report for policing and piloting the recording of vehicle traffic stops to challenge established practices, identify and address disparities, and – if required – build a case for reform.
“Every police force is committed to ensuring the plan reflects their community’s needs and will develop a local version of Black history to ensure it is relevant to the local community.
“This work, at its core, is about good policing and knowing our communities better and the progress we are making is part of a long-term cultural shift that will leave a lasting legacy.”
Since the Plan was published in May 2022, work has continued to test and refine the activity across the four workstreams:
- Internal Culture and Inclusivity (led by Chief Constable Pam Kelly) - Use of Police Powers (Led by Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi) - Community relations and engagement (Led Chief Constable Clare Parmenter) - Protection from Victimisation (Lead by DCC Matt Ward))
A number of police forces have been identified as ‘icebreaker’ forces, focusing on priority actions to develop more effective and legitimate policing activities for use across England and Wales. Every action is linked to specific outcomes which are subject to scrutiny from the ISOB
We are determined to achieve tangible progress that delivers on our commitment to become an anti- racist service. This activity includes:
- A proposal for a National Data Publication Strategy for policing. We are developing and trialling consistent methodologies for new and emerging data requirements, as well as reviewing and targeting existing data gaps. - Development of an annual ethnicity pay gap report for policing is underway. The results of force pilot activity and a proposed timeline for national adoption will be submitted to Chief Constables Council in April 2023 for consideration. - Development of a single definition of ‘disproportionality’ enabling more effective, transparent assessment of policing activity across England and Wales. - Development of specific activity to address the positive and challenging experiences of our Black staff captured within the inaugural national ‘Our Black Workforce Survey’ that was published in December. - Introduction of revised national guidance; defining the criteria for consistent use of Body Worn Video across policing in England and Wales. - Reviewing the Police Education Qualification is being reviewed to ensure officers and staff have a greater understanding of the experiences of Black communities and their relationship with policing. The curriculum for new officers has been revised, as well as training in the use of force and further role specific reviews are ongoing. - Piloting the recording of vehicle traffic stops. This is not compulsory under current legislation but is an example of policing’s determination to challenge current practice, challenge any disparities and if required build a case for reform. A further update on the pilot with a recommended route for national adoption will be presented to Chiefs Council in February 2023. - A pilot programme to deliver a National Mentoring Scheme is underway. It will use the skills and experience of Black professionals external to policing to take part in a peer support/mentoring scheme for Chief Officers.
Chair of the Independent Scrutiny and Oversight Board, Abimbola Johnson, has responded to the report:
“The Police Race Action Plan Survey received a good number of responses. We have started to receive more regular updates about progress in the Plan and continue to provide constructive feedback. However, Plan and ISOB processes still need to improve: the information we receive varies in quality; Plan updates have not been made sufficiently public and as a Board our work is not as visible as it could be. This in turn makes it difficult for us to speak openly about the Programme; something we view as fundamental to our legitimacy.
“The survey highlights that more ought to have been done to ensure higher response rates from Black/Black mixed heritage individuals and those under 35. This is a Plan focused on Black communities and young people, two groups who are the most likely to have contact with police, whether as victims, witnesses, or suspects.
“Qualitative feedback with those groups in the ensuing period has been underwhelming and must be treated as a priority by the Programme. Genuine engagement with Black communities is needed as well as delivery - listening and responding with concrete change.”
Recommendations we [the ISOB] have made to the Programme:
The Police acknowledge and apologise for institutional racism;
More visible leadership and commitment to the Plan from each of the 43 Chief Constables;
Public commitments are made to measurable targets and success measures that demonstrate tangible changes in policing as a result of this Programme. People want to see actual delivery;
Regular public updates are provided by the Race Action Programme to increase transparency and accountability, particularly from individuals with delivery responsibility;
The creation of a Race Action Plan website to increase visibility and accessibility of information;
The creation of an annual summit on race developed alongside police forces, communities, and specialist anti-racism organisations; and
The Programme analyses why there was a significant proportion of respondents within policing who remain ‘undecided’ about the Plan. These represent groups who must be listened to in order to increase uptake of delivery of the anti-racist goals of the Plan.
What you can expect to see from the ISOB this year:
We will publish our 2023 priorities by the end of February alongside our review of the work done by the Programme in 2022;
We recognise that we need to provide more frequent updates of what we see in the Programme. We are establishing a newsletter that we will publish at regular intervals throughout the year with substantive updates about our work, recommendations, and the meetings we have with the central programme team. This will also be posted on our website;
We have increased our own Board meetings to monthly intervals to keep abreast of progress against each of the workstream areas that individual ISOB members are tasked to monitor;
We will work to create more frequent regional and national accountability meetings with community members, organisations and police to facilitate direct conversations about Programme delivery; and
We are pressing for more visibility between the ISOB and the Chiefs’ Council, including a direct reporting relationship about plan progress that will need to be more publicly accessible.