Officer uplift failing to attract black recruits

Police forces are still failing to attract enough black recruits through the uplift, despite making good progress with other under-represented minorities, the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council has said.

Feb 25, 2021
By Tony Thompson
Martin Hewitt – National Police Chiefs’ Council chair. Picture: PA

Though the ongoing uplift programme to recruit 20,000 additional officers by March 2023 has seen more than 7,000 successful applicants join forces around the country, few of those new recruits are coming from black, Africa or Caribbean communities.

Martin Hewitt said there was no simple answer to the problem but he believed a major issue was that becoming a police officer still carried negative connotations for people from some backgrounds.

Speaking at the Police Foundation annual conference he said: “One of the things I think we need to collectively focus on is what it means to join and become a police officer. For anybody, stepping over that line and saying ‘I want to become a police officer’, is not like saying I want to go and work for this particular retailer or that particular financial institution.

“It brings an impact on you as a person, it has connotations for your family, it has connotations for your friendship group, it places restrictions on your lifestyle in a way that not many other roles do.

“If you then think you are coming from a community where the relationship with the police service is strained or challenged or in some cases quite hostile, that is an enormous step that we are asking someone to take or expecting someone to take which will have some real issues particularly on their friendship groups, their families and so on.”

Mr Hewitt said in the recent January intake, 48 per cent of new police recruits were women, while 12 per cent were from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups (BAME). However, while the number of Asian applicants had risen, those from black, African and Caribbean communities had remained virtually unchanged.

“We have got to be realistic and honest about the challenge that we are facing in terms of bringing in people from minority backgrounds and we must avoid trying to come up with a quick solution,” he said.

“Fundamentally we need to get to a place where people from certain communities can see themselves being one of us and coming to work with us. That is a much bigger thing than simply focusing on the process of recruiting people in.”

The problem has previously been identified by the Police Foundation which, in a study published last year, said: “The main driver of increasing police officer ethnic diversity since 2007 has been the recruitment of Asian and mixed ethnicity officers, especially men, while black representation has barely increased.”

See also: Colour by numbers

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