Let’s think before we start cheer-leading BME police recruitment drives

Greater Manchester Police’s latest recruitment drive for Black and Minority Ethnic officers superficially sugar-coats the age-old institutional racism that exists within the force, writes Ghulam Esposito Haydar

I just wanted to state some polite advice regarding GMP’s most recent recruitment drive from BME communities.

I believe it is premature to be supporting this endeavour considering the very recent history associated with GMP pertaining to institutional racism coupled with the absence of any real ownership of the problem and a subsequent action plan with reassurances.

I acknowledge and welcome that there has been some positive action from the upper echelons of the police to improve relations with the BME communities in Manchester and they intend to address issues internally, but there clearly are some deep rooted issues and previous grievances which need to be addressed to reassure our communities that they are not walking right into the lion’s den.

  1. GMP need to officially and publicly acknowledge that there has been and still are traces of institutional racism within their power structure.
  2. An action plan needs to drawn up and presented to BME communities on how they plan to use the new recruits in weeding out any structural institutional racism.
  3. Reassurances need to be given to potential BME recruits on raising internal issues to their superiors and good career progression prospects

Recruiting more police officers from BME backgrounds without any public acknowledgement of institutional racism, and an action plan on how the GMP with the assistance these BME officers will work to weed out structural racism, as well as assurances on reporting and escalating internal issues does seems like tokenism demonstrating “positive action” without any real intent on dealing with the issue.

It’s important to remember that this isn’t the first time the GMP have tried to recruit from BME backgrounds in an attempt to fill their diversity quotas in order to demonstrate they are not institutionally racist and or doing something about it. Furthermore, it’s extremely important that we learn from the lessons of the past and request public acknowledgment, actions plan and reassurances before we support this initiative.

Below are just a few stats demonstrating the institutional racism within the Greater Manchester Police force:

  • Statistically significant over-representation of BME officers and staff was identified in the GMP counter-corruption intelligence data. Asian officers and staff were 2.79 and 3.59 times more likely than white officers and staff, respectively, to be subjected to counter-corruption intelligence. Black status was not significant for officers or staff.
  • The evidence in support of the existence of procedural disproportionality in internally raised misconduct proceedings in GMP was compelling. The experiences and perceptions of BME officers interviewed were of a two tier misconduct system in which they were subjected to unjust and punishing treatment and white officers were dealt with informally. There was broad consensus among interviewees of the preference of divisional managers and supervisors to refer BME officers to PSB.
  • The ways in which GMP attempts to ‘deal with difference’ was identified as a primary cause of concern. Investigated BME officers and staff association representatives were of the view that the service does not understand difference, that to be different is wrong and misconduct proceedings serve as a means of dealing with difference. In contrast, Command and PSB personnel pointed to the vulnerability of Asian personnel to cultural pressures and the
    need for GMP to safeguard against risks to the integrity of the service
  • Substantiations and sanctions were observed in GMP in comparison with the WMP and BTP data. This was particularly the case in regard to proceedings involving white police officers. In total 429 white GMP officers were investigated, the substantiation rate was 25.87 percent and 25.23 percent of substantiated cases resulted in the issue of sanctions.

My humble advice to those championing the GMP’s latest BME recruitment drive is to assess the situation holistically, and that includes accounting the force about the institutional racism that exists, and more importantly, how more BME officers will strategically counter it, as opposed to just meeting quotas.

Ghulam Esposito Haydar is a Muslim activist, joint founder of Manchester New Muslim Network and a director of the Myriad Foundation.

@ghulamesposito

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