The publication of the Police Race Action Plan yesterday by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing has been a long time in the making. A commitment to being ‘institutionally anti-racist’ is welcome, but this commitment must be accompanied by meaningful and determined action.
“Change has not been fast nor significant enough”
The Plan is right to recognise that “without the trust and confidence of Black communities, policing is less effective at protecting all communities”. We welcome the specific attention and focus given to the Black community throughout the Plan. We know that people from Black and Mixed ethnic groups, particularly those with Black Caribbean backgrounds are much less likely to expect local police to treat them fairly, with respect and to agree that the police can be trusted.
Over the last year we have seen what are often referred to as ‘high profile’ cases of police powers being abused in the most horrific of circumstances. Yet, these abuses are not new for the Black community, and span decades. The Plan is right to acknowledge that the reasons for distrust and fear of policing across the Black community are ‘deep rooted and complex’. We welcome that officers will be expected to analyse and be educated around the historical context of policing practice to contextualise what current policing procedures mean today for the Black community, especially in context of trust and confidence.
It is right to recognise the importance of understanding the causes, of discrimination and disparities across policing, before understanding how to change existing practice.
“Treating Black people as individuals, and taking account of their needs, vulnerabilities, experiences and circumstances”
Alongside the publication of the Plan yesterday, we saw news of another 14-year-old Black schoolgirl being strip searched whilst on her period, on this instance, it was in the presence and under the directive of male Police officers. Detail of her long standing mental ill health and attempts on her life following the strip-search is indicative of just how detrimental police contact can be for Black communities, especially for children and young adults.
The recognition that police contact for those from Black communities can often be traumatic, is something our lived experience members noted in the development of our essay collection on the interconnectedness of poverty, trauma and multiple disadvantage. The nature of these interactions must change for policing to elicit the trust and confidence of the community, by understanding just how counterproductive they can be when protecting the communities they are meant to serve.
“Black people and communities routinely involved in the governance of policing”
We welcome the reference to consulting not only with Black communities in the development of this Plan, but it is positive a degree of introspection exhibited in the development of the Plan, by engaging with officers and senior leaders, who are part of the police service and can speak to the current state and culture of policing.
We are encouraged by the ‘greater involvement of Black communities in oversight and scrutiny activity’, as well as a commitment to a the ‘development of a national approach’ by learning with non-policing organisations. As Revolving Doors’ outlined in our response to the publication of ‘Inclusive Britain’, this must be done in a way that is accessible to the community, beyond tokenistic representation on existing engagement channels. Working with lived experience must always be done meaningfully – the Changing Futures’ programme has showcased just how important lived experience can be in co-design, co-production and co-governance.
“A police service that is fair, respectful and equitable in its actions towards Black people”
We are acutely aware that this Plan comes on the back of an extensive relaxation of restrictions on the use of Section 60, announced just last week – where racial disparities are even greater. Ethnic minority groups were seven times more likely to be stopped under Section 60 than their White counterparts, and Black people 18 times more likely. Furthermore, those from Black, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds were subject to 54% of all Section 60 searches last year. Removing restrictions including the need for communities to be notified of the use in advance, represents yet another a significant barrier to the police building trust and confidence across Black communities.
Procedural justice is a key strategic priority for Revolving Doors. We focus on the fair and humane treatment of those in the revolving door of crisis and crime, especially through their initial contact with the system through the police. We also look forward to hearing how lived experience will feature as part of training packages and the development of pilots, ahead of delivery and roll out. Our lived experience members have been part of West Midlands Integrated Offender Management training, working alongside officers to train staff on how best to respond to particular vulnerabilities presented. Lived experience should always be part and parcel of delivering cultural competence to police officers and staff.
We therefore await further detail of ‘effective de-escalation training’ and ‘pilots of procedural justice approaches’ across police forces, to better address the disproportionality of the use of stop and search.
“The challenge for this plan is to create a police service that is anti-racist“
This Plan is a first for policing, and ambitious in many areas, but publication must not be seen as an end goal. The Plan outlines “every police force in England and Wales will review their policies, procedures and practices, embedding an antiracist stance” – this cannot be a simple tick box exercise by the police. Neither can it be done by updating existence guidance and training packages alone.
We look forward further detail on the Community Forum supporting the Independent Scrutiny Board, and advocate for that lived experience features in not only the oversight mechanisms, but throughout the development and consultation ahead of the next iteration of the Plan in December 2022, that will focus specifically on delivery.
Policing practice must be part of a wider reset and cultural overhaul across the criminal justice system – whole-scale change must take place across probation, courts and sentencing. At Revolving Doors we will continue to work on bold policy solutions for meaningful reform by championing lived experience, to address significant challenges facing the criminal justice system and all those within it.