Police Federation

Disproportionality and the discipline system

17 May 2022

Day one of the PFEW Annual Conference saw National Board member Tiff Lynch lead a crucial session, looking at whether a lack of cultural awareness plays a part in the discipline system and whether this affects disproportionality.

Tiff was joined by Ian Balbi, Head of Discipline Policy at the Home Office, T/DCC Tyron Joyce, Programme Director of the Race Action Plan at the NPCC, Sal Naseem, Regional Director of the IOPC and Paul Odle, Chair of the PFEW Race, Religion and Belief Group.

Tiff began the session by talking through the current landscape, how far policing has come in relation to disproportionality and what is planned for the future, whilst showing a timeline of key publications into discrimination and disproportionality from 1981 onwards. She identified that ‘We all have responsibilities and roles to play in this area.”

Research has identified that officers from different ethnic backgrounds experience disproportionality within the complaints system and that there is no clear understanding as to why this is occurring.

The discussion referenced the Cain Report of 2019, commissioned by the Home Affairs Select Committee. The panel also cited a Home Office Workforce Data report, which found that one-third of forces had no ethnic minority officers or staff working in Professional Standards departments in the year ending March 2021.

Ian Balbi noted that updated figures are due to be published on 1 June 2022, with reports having been amended for the first time to enable data collection on protected characteristics across forces. He said: “If we don’t have the data, then we don’t know where the problems are and whether the work being done is in vain or is leading to success.”

Ian continued: “The disciplinary system is a beast that encompasses many processes along the way. It is imperative and important that we understand where disproportionality exists in the system, to look at what can be done to tackle it.”

Paul Odle, Chair of PFEW’s Race, Religion and Belief Group spoke in great detail around how important cultural awareness and community understanding is within the misconduct process and identified the need for training around culture and communities.

He said: “We are good at a lot of things within policing, but not understanding our communities. If we don’t understand them, we create problems.”

Paul also spoke about his own experience as a black police officer with 31 years of service and the importance of taking action to find solutions to discrimination and disproportionality.

“We need the support of our colleagues to understand what we are going through, what we have gone through and to help make the path a steady path for the new generation following in our footsteps. We can’t do it without each other.”

T/DCC Tyron Joyce, Programme Director of the upcoming Race Action Plan by the National Police Chief’s Council said: "The Race Action Plan is not meant to be an academic document. It is what we are all going to do to combat these issues. If we have an environment that is tolerant of racism, then it breeds. It's about trying to create an environment to challenge this. This is not for black officers or staff to solve, it's for everyone to solve."

“As of next Tuesday, a nationwide survey for black police officers and staff will launch and run for the next five years. This is the first survey of its kind and will allow these officers and staff to talk about their experiences.

“Anti-racism is about challenging processes, practices and procedures. We would like to see more use of diversity units at the earliest part of an investigation, anti-racism training for those on panels and a recommendation that where race is a factor in a panel, to have a chair from a minority background presiding. The NPCC can suggest principles but it’s up to forces to take these on.”

Sal Naseem, Regional Director of the Independent Office for Police Conduct, identified that there Is a desperate need to address the issue of culture within policing, and the different cultural barriers that officers face when it comes to speaking out about disproportionality and discrimination.

“In terms of officers reporting concerns, they need to feel safe and empowered to do so. There is a real fear from those in marginalised groups that their concerns won’t be listened to and they won’t be heard.

“These officers need to be welcomed - their differences valued. If not, then all of the work on uplift and diversity is wasted as officers will not stay in policing. As this happens the confidence gap grows and it becomes harder for policing to recruit from these communities. It’s a vicious circle and the only way to move the dial in this area is to look at the word culture.

"This is not about changing the colour and you'll change the culture, it's change the culture and you will change the colour."

Closing the session, the panel highlighted different concepts and theories for combating disproportionality in misconduct investigations in relation to ethnicity and other protected characteristics including:

  • Better representation of the community at Appropriate Authority (AA) level at PSD’s
  • Equality, advanced equality and cultural understanding training as a mandatory part of the criteria to become an AA
  • PSD’s triage unit to look at the types and processes of misconduct investigations and if they conform with HO guidelines and the Equality Act to pick up any patterns of disparities
  • Improved promotion opportunities

Tiff Lynch concluded the session by saying: "This is a long and detailed process with lots of work still to do. We are all in agreement that we have to work together as we all have a part to play. We need to improve training and start talking."

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