Police chiefs will declare they are “ashamed” about racism remaining in law enforcement, and apologise for the “discrimination and bias” still plaguing forces in a new race plan launching next week.
The plan from National Police Chiefs Council and College of Policing will avoid admitting institutional racism, which critics brand a failure which could doom the promised reforms.
However, it will instead commit to be being “institutionally anti-racist”, and aim to start winning back the confidence of black people, which among black Caribbean people is 20% lower than the national average.
They vow to end the treatment which black people find “stigmatising and humiliating”, and police chiefs from England and Wales will say: “We accept that policing still contains racism, discrimination and bias. We are ashamed of those truths, we apologise for them and we are determined to change them.”
The plan, running to more than 50 pages, follows months of intense and at times bitter discussions.
It was triggered by the mass protests after the murder of George Floyd in the United States by a police officer, and has taken so long it will be published just a day before the second anniversary of his death.
The document and planned reforms comes after decades of promises by policing to stamp out racism in the ranks, and failure to deliver.
In 1999, policing was declared to be institutionally racist by the Macpherson inquiry into the police blunders that allowed the racist murderers of Stephen Lawrence to escape justice after he was stabbed to death at a London bus stop.
Policing has in large parts – especially in the Met –declared that the label no longer applies. The Guardian has revealed chiefs were debating a public declaration, almost a quarter of a century on from Macpherson, that policing remained so.
Some chief constables and community experts they consulted insisted that accepting the label was the essential starting point to repair the damage, otherwise any plan risked never even getting a hearing from communities weary of promises and false claims they had been delivered.
Police leaders could not agree to accept forces were still institutionally racist, even holding a vote
The chiefs will say: “Much has been done in the intervening years by policing to address racism in the police and society.
“Despite this, change has not been fast nor significant enough in Black communities. As we have prepared this plan, we have heard the views of Black people and their experiences of policing. We have listened to the voices of our own Black colleagues about the service they belong to.
“The challenge for reform, set out by Macpherson, cannot be said to have been unambiguously answered by policing. Many people believe policing to still be institutionally racist and have grounds for this view.”
The murder of George Floyd in the US saw over 250,000 people take to British streets in support of Black Live Matter and calls for racial justice in a phalanx of protests, despite the country being in lockdown.
Discussions within policing with ethnic minority officers saw some chiefs realise the race problems in their forces were more severe than they had realised.
The document says: “We have much to do to secure the confidence of Black people, including our own staff, and improve their experience of policing – and we will. We will be held to account and we welcome scrutiny.
“That need for change is evident. Policing lags behind almost every part of the public service as an employer of choice for Black people. Confidence levels are much lower, and our powers are disproportionately applied to Black people. In some crimes, victimisation rates are higher.
“Black officers and staff leave policing earlier in their careers than White staff and the fact we have only seen two Black officers reach chief constable or assistant commissioner rank in policing’s history is a failure. “
One chief constable who supports accepting policing is institutionally racist said: “All the figures show it still is.”
One chief who opposed it said the label was “unhelpful” and not accurate.
Victor Olisa, former head of diversity at Scotland Yard, said failing to admit institutional racism will blow the credibility of the new promises: “They may say they will do better, but without an admission of institutional racism, it won’t be believed in communities.
“Police chiefs are being insular and doing what suits them and not the service of the public.”
The chiefs will say the argument that policing reflects biases in society is not good enough: “Policing has a much higher obligation than any other public service, given its ability to deprive liberty and use the most intrusive powers. The collective trust of society is critical to a police service built upon consent.”
Sources involved in discussions said while high on aspiration, the plan risked lacking specifics.
Chiefs will adopt a policy of “explain or reform” on racial disparities, such as stop and search, and the plan will say: “Black people are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than White people and five times more likely to be subjected to the use of force. Testimonies tell us that Black people find these encounters – particularly stop and search – confrontational, stigmatising and humiliating.
“10% of our recorded searches, 27% of use-of-force incidents and 35% of Taser incidents involved someone from a Black ethnic group. The latest estimates suggest that only 3.5% of the population is Black.”
Chiefs have brought in independent scrutiny and the public will be encouraged to give their views on the plan.
The plan is produced by the NPCC and College of Policing and will now be consulted upon and may change. They state their aim is: “Our vision is for a police service that is anti-racist and trusted by Black people.”