Black police officers to be fast-tracked into senior roles

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The College of Policing would develop a new national fast-track route for black and ethnic minority inspectors to gain promotion to superintendent, according to the Home Secretary - Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
The College of Policing would develop a new national fast-track route for black and ethnic minority inspectors to gain promotion to superintendent, according to the Home Secretary - Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Black police officers are to be fast-tracked into top jobs to overcome “stubbornly slow” recruitment, Priti Patel has announced.

The Home Secretary said there was “so much more to do” to increase the number of senior black officers, with fewer than one in 20 ethnic minority chief officers, and none among the chief constables heading any of the 43 police forces in England and Wales.

Although Neil Basu, who is of Indian heritage, holds the equivalent rank of chief constable as the UK’s head of counter-terrorism policing, there has not been a black chief heading a force since Michael Fuller became the first, when he took charge of Kent Police in 2004.

Ms Patel told the National Black Police Association: “Progress on the recruitment of black officers has been stubbornly slow and we know we have so much more to do.”

She announced that the College of Policing would now develop a new national fast-track route for black and ethnic minority inspectors to gain promotion to superintendent.

Review of courses to take place

Priti Patel criticised forces for unacceptable variations in the proportions of ethnic minority officers in senior ranks - Jeff Overs/BBC/AFP via Getty Images
Priti Patel criticised forces for unacceptable variations in the proportions of ethnic minority officers in senior ranks - Jeff Overs/BBC/AFP via Getty Images

The Home Secretary said that there would also be an independent review of the “gateway” courses and training for senior chief officer ranks to establish what more could be done to combat the lack of progression.

“This will look at how our officers are prepared for senior leadership and why more diverse talent is not yet breaking through,” she said.

She criticised forces for unacceptable variations in the proportions of ethnic minority officers in senior ranks.

“I know that police bosses vary in how seriously they take this issue. And of course that needs to change, immediately. But also it needs to change across the whole of society,” she said.

“Diversity does not mean lowering standards – that’s complete nonsense. On the contrary, policing misses out on a big pool of talent when the broadest range of people, irrespective of your background, are not encouraged to join the police.”

Black, Asian and other ethnic minority people represent 14 per cent of the population, but only 4.7 per cent of chief officers, seven per cent of chief superintendents, 4.5 per cent of superintendents and just over five per cent of chief inspectors and inspectors. Some 8.3 per cent are constables.

Michael Fuller became the first black chief constable of a police force when he took charge of Kent Police in 2004 - Gareth Fuller/PA Archive
Michael Fuller became the first black chief constable of a police force when he took charge of Kent Police in 2004 - Gareth Fuller/PA Archive

Ms Patel said the proportion of ethnic minority officers in England and Wales had increased from 4.7 per cent in 2010 to 7.6 per cent in 2021, the highest percentage since records began.

This trend was continuing with more than 11 per cent of officers recruited as part of the 20,000-strong police uplift drawn from ethnic minority backgrounds. She noted certain forces had made particularly substantial gains, such as Greater Manchester Police, Surrey and Nottinghamshire.

However, she said that the drive to retain and promote ethnic minority officers needed to apply “equally across the board” including senior ranks and geographically, adding: “We want them to go to the top.”

Senior roles for female officers

The number of female chief constables has risen to a third at 15 out of 46 UK forces from just four in 2019. However, the Home Secretary noted that a mere 1.3 per cent of female officers from any ethnic background were inspectors or above, well below seven per cent of their counterparts.

She said increasing the proportion of women and ethnic minorities in senior ranks was a “critical and personal priority for me”.

Ms Patel, whose parents came to the UK in the Sixties from Uganda, said: “From politics to policing and wider public service, it is fair to say that sometimes we can feel as if our face does not always fit.

“And I know that many of you have decided… have made that choice to become police officers to try to change that. You have my deep admiration and my respect. Now I’d love to be able to tell you that I haven’t faced racism or sexism, but I still do today.

“And I know that you have all had your own similar experiences. Active hostility to someone who looks like you being in the police. Both on and off the beat. And there is still far too much for all of us to do to address this.”

Andy George, the president of the National Black Police Association said: “We need progression plans that spot talent from under-represented groups early on in someone’s career. Most officers sit at constable and sergeant level.

“The accelerated promotion scheme would create a more level playing field and help reduce barriers our members face and we are very supportive of the initiative.”

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