The next national emergency

Police Superintendents’ Association president Paul Griffiths says the issue of diversity and policing is the “next national emergency facing our country”.

Jul 10, 2020
By Paul Griffiths
Paul Griffiths

Diversity and policing has been one the longest standing challenges facing our service, casting an eye back to watershed moments with the Scarman Report in 1981 and the Macpherson Report in 1999.

Every police officer, staff member or volunteer would, at some point, have been party to discussion and debate surrounding this, and will have heard leaders talk about reviews, action plans and commitments to change.

Each of these commitments have been made with integrity and determination, yet we find ourselves having made little progress on a matter which I see as the next national emergency facing our country.

A colleague recently said to me that she can’t keep hearing the phrase “so much has been achieved, but there is so much more to do”. She is right.

We are recycling the same lines around the same issue. I have been guilty of this myself, with all the right intentions, but we are losing the trust and confidence of our workforce and our communities if they don’t see the tangible results of these claims.

I recently met with the Home Secretary to discuss this, among other issues, and was joined by our BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) lead, Superintendent Bhupinder Rai from Thames Valley Police. Together we spoke to the Home Secretary about feedback from our BAME members, revealing passion, frustration and determination to make a change.

From strong leadership and accountability, real empathy with our communities and a renewed focus on lawfully audacious positive action, there are limitless ways we can get to the root of this issue and re-design our culture, our services and our approach.

We have the generational opportunity to make a difference with the increased recruitment to our workforce through the Police Uplift Programme. If we don’t take this opportunity – and get it right – we face a 40-year diversity problem. That means we must do things differently. We cannot keep doing and saying the same things and expecting to see a change.

Representing the senior operational leaders in policing, our association is privileged to have influence and impact across the policing sector. This is an influence I am now determined to harness around this issue.

I am very conscious that these may be seen as empty words, but all those in leadership need to offer themselves up for clear accountability for the role we need to play alongside our partners. That is why we are working on constructive ideas and suggestions for how we can work together to create a service our communities deserve – something in which we must all play our part.

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