White chief officer accused of ‘hijacking’ black police association event

Leicestershire Police has been accused of institutional racism after it was alleged that an event to commemorate the history of black officers within the force was effectively hijacked by a senior white officer.

Nov 1, 2019
By Tony Thompson

In a letter sent yesterday (October 31) to Simon Cole, chief constable of Leicestershire Police, Tola Munro, the President of the National Black Police Association (NBPA), criticised the choice of Deputy Chief Constable Rob Nixon as compere for the 25th anniversary celebration of the Leicestershire branch of the Black Police Association (BPA).

Mr Munro said he had previously had cause to raise concerns with Mr Cole about the behaviour and suitability of Mr Nixon to be the force lead for race.

He said the resulting event served only to reinforce his concerns about “unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping in Leicestershire Police.”

Mr Munro’s open letter to Mr Cole, copies of which were sent to the media, was accompanied by information about a College of Policing peer review process and a 29-page April 2019 document highlighting 15 indicators of institutional racism within Leicestershire Police.

The indicators are a catalogue of accusations against the force, from a lack of diversity at all levels and aggressive behaviour by local Police Federation branch representatives to lack of attention to discrimination complaints and “dissonance and failure” among the senior leadership of the force.

Mr Munro had previously attended the anniversary celebration of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) BPA and his letter drew attention to the differences between that and the Leicestershire Police event. He said: “The Met BPA event was organised and run by the members and their choice of speakers included almost every former and current Chair. It was very much a celebration of their impact on policing over the past quarter of a century, which made participants feel uplifted and valued.”

By comparison, Mr Munro said of the Leicestershire event: “The current BPA Chair was not adequately involved in the event, and I have been informed that DCC Nixon selected some speakers, who had never been BPA members, the night before.

“On discussion with colleagues, these failings gave me and others the impression that the event was neither inclusive or participatory and had a superficial impact. This has reinforced my belief, as President of the NBPA, that Leicestershire Police is institutionally racist.”

“Therefore, I would like to support you and your force by encouraging you to work with the College of Policing to undertake a Peer Review, and Unconscious Bias assessments of your senior leaders.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the force denied the accusations, stating that representatives of the local body had been fully involved. “The force was really proud to work with the Leicestershire Black Police Association to host the event to mark the 25th anniversary of the network and the first day of Black History month. It was organised by local BPA members, with support from other officers and staff, and attended by many former and current colleagues of all ranks and roles – who shared personal stories about their careers and experiences in policing across the years,” said the statement.

“Speakers included a former Inspector who served for 30 years and returned from Barbados to attend, the chair of the local BPA and the President of the National Black Police Association.

“We are extremely surprised to read the comments made by the President of the NBPA in a letter sent to the force and are disappointed his concerns were not raised directly during his visit on 1 October, when there was the opportunity to do so, or subsequently.

“The letter encourages the force to undertake a Peer Review facilitated by the College of Policing. This is something that the force has already requested. The opportunity to positively engage with the NBPA would be welcomed by the force and there remains an open invitation to the President.”

It is the second time this year that Mr Munro has accused the force of institutional racism, having made the same claim in February while giving evidence at the House of Commons during a hearing about the 20th anniversary of the Macpherson Report.

He told MPs that the force was dealing with “four or five” cases of racial discrimination, which he said was an “unprecedented” number for a single force in the UK to have.

He also told the committee a tree planted at the force’s headquarters in Enderby in 2018 to mark 25 years since the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in London was vandalised within the force grounds. However, the force denied this, saying damage to the tree had been caused by the extreme heat of the last summer.

Mr Munro criticised the force for declaring the report a ‘no crime’ despite no damage done to any other tree in the vicinity.

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