Po­lice Scot­land branded racist

Racial equal­ity char­ity sav­ages force Only one per cent of staff from eth­nic back­grounds Po­lice at­tacked over han­dling of race-hate crimes

The Herald on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY PAUL HUTCHEON

Only one per cent of of­fi­cers, po­lice staff and spe­cial con­sta­bles are from a BME back­ground

PO­LICE Scot­land has been ac­cused of “in­sti­tu­tional racism” by a Gov­ern­ment-funded char­ity.

The force has been at­tacked over the re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion lev­els of staff from black and mi­nor­ity eth­nic (BME) com­mu­ni­ties.

The Coali­tion for Racial Equal­ity and Rights (CRER) also crit­i­cised the force on the same grounds for the way it re­sponds to racist in­ci­dents.

In one case, the CRER said that a per­son who re­ceived a threat­en­ing and racist email was asked if it could have been “just a prank” and whether it was “worth the has­sle” to pur­sue the com­plaint. The or­gan­i­sa­tion added that the “prob­lem of in­sti­tu­tional racism” within Po­lice Scot­land must be “named and ac­knowl­edged be­fore it can be ad­dressed”.

The CRER, which re­ceived over £70,000 in 2016-17 from the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment, strives to elim­i­nate racial dis­crim­i­na­tion and pro­mote racial jus­tice. It has li­aised with Po­lice Scot­land, whose chief con­sta­ble is Phil Gorm­ley, on is­sues re­lat­ing to re­cruit­ment, hate crime re­port­ing and ex­ter­nal ad­vi­sory groups. How­ever, in a hard-hit­ting sub­mis­sion to a Holy­rood com­mit­tee, the CRER has crit­i­cised the force over its en­gage­ment with BME com­mu­ni­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to the sub­mis­sion, only one per cent of of­fi­cers, po­lice staff and spe­cial con­sta­bles are from a BME back­ground – a tiny pro­por­tion which the char­ity says is “rel­a­tively un­changed” since 2013.

The coali­tion added: “The pro­por­tion of BME po­lice of­fi­cers has never risen above one per cent. A lack of di­ver­sity is per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant bar­rier for BME com­mu­ni­ties in en­gag­ing with po­lice ser­vices lo­cally and na­tion­ally.” The char­ity also claimed there is a “par­tic­u­lar prob­lem” with re­tain­ing BME staff: “There is no point in bet­ter­ing re­cruit­ment if BME po­lice of­fi­cers and staff con­tinue to leave Po­lice Scot­land in high pro­por­tions.”

In an alarm­ing sec­tion of the sub­mis­sion, the CRER added: “It con­trib­utes to the per­cep­tion [and ex­pe­ri­ence] of in­sti­tu­tional racism within Po­lice Scot­land. If Scot­land wants to be a na­tion in which all of its cit­i­zens feel safe, pro­tected and in­cluded, then con­certed and de­lib­er­ate ac­tion to in­crease BME rep­re­sen­ta­tion is needed.”

The phrase “in­sti­tu­tional racism” was used by Sir Wil­liam Macpher­son to de­scribe the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice in Lon­don af­ter the force’s dis­as­trous han­dling of the mur­der of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. At that time, it was de­fined as the “col­lec­tive fail­ure of an or­gan­i­sa­tion to pro­vide an ap­pro­pri­ate and pro­fes­sional ser­vice to peo­ple be­cause of their colour, cul­ture, or eth­nic ori­gin”.

The CRER also hit out at the way Po­lice Scot­land has dealt with com­plaints by mem­bers of BME com­mu­ni­ties. “Th­ese com­plaints are of­ten not re­solved at an early stage or not taken se­ri­ously. Not only does this dis­cour­age in­di­vid­u­als from re­port­ing more se­ri­ous in­ci­dents to po­lice, it also con­trib­utes to an ap­pre­hen­sion of, and dis­trust in, po­lice ser­vices. In one such case, the per­son be­ing ha­rassed had com­plained re­peat­edly and no ac­tion had yet been taken against the per­pe­tra­tors. When he was even­tu­ally at­tacked on his doorstep, he fought back. The po­lice ar­rested him in­stead of the per­pe­tra­tors, and held him for some time.”

Ac­cord­ing to the char­ity, the in­di­vid­ual even­tu­ally re­ceived an apol­ogy, but this out­come did not change the “lack of sup­port and un­fair treat­ment” he ex­pe­ri­enced. The CRER wrote that it was also aware of cases in which peo­ple were “dis­cour­aged” from re­port­ing a crime as racially mo­ti­vated: “Usu­ally this oc­curs in face-to-face con­tact with of­fi­cers, with the of­fi­cers putting for­ward al­ter­na­tive mo­ti­va­tions or as­sert­ing their own opin­ions in a way which di­min­ishes the com­plaint be­ing made.”

The char­ity of­fered an ex­am­ple: “One per­son who re­ceived a threat­en­ing, racist email was re­peat­edly asked if it could be ‘just a prank’ and whether it was ‘worth the has­sle’ to pur­sue the com­plaint. Be­ing treated in this way and hav­ing racist in­ci­dents in­val­i­dated con­trib­utes to a be­lief that the po­lice do not un­der­stand racism and that en­gage­ment on race equal­ity is­sues is fu­tile.”

In an un­spar­ing con­clu­sion, the CRER wrote that “high-rank­ing mem­bers” of Po­lice Scot­land have “de­nied that in­sti­tu­tional racism ex­ists” which “in­di­cates a mis­un­der­stand­ing of the is­sue” and a “re­fusal to ac­knowl­edge the ex­pe­ri­ences of BME in­di­vid­u­als”.

A Po­lice Scot­land spokesper­son said: “Po­lice Scot­land en­joys a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the CRER, with reg­u­lar meet­ings and we value the skills they bring in sup­port of con­sul­ta­tions about the BME com­mu­nity. Racism and hate crime of any de­scrip­tion will not be tol­er­ated in Scot­land – it causes fear, iso­la­tion and a sense of help­less­ness for vic­tims. There is sim­ply no place for be­hav­iour mo­ti­vated by prej­u­dice within a 21st-cen­tury Scot­land and Po­lice Scot­land has a zero tol­er­ance ap­proach to th­ese crimes – all of­fi­cers have com­pul­sory di­ver­sity and equal­ity train­ing.

“Po­lice Scot­land is al­ways striv­ing to im­prove the BME rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the Force and the Pos­i­tive Ac­tion Team, formed last Oc­to­ber, en­sures a co­he­sive ap­proach to en­gage­ment with mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties. Dur­ing the past few months, led by se­nior of­fi­cers, a se­ries of new BME en­gage­ment ini­tia­tives were held with po­ten­tial re­cruits and their fam­i­lies over sev­eral week­ends. On Septem­ber 8, 2017 the work of this team saw the Scot­tish Po­lice Col­lege host its largest ever pass­ing out pa­rade of 213 new po­lice con­sta­bles, more than 10 per cent of whom were from BME back­grounds.”

Pho­to­graph: Jeff J Mitchell/ Getty Im­ages

Po­lice Scot­land has been ac­cused of be­ing racist

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