Policing is technically more diverse than it ever has been, with the number of police officers from minority ethnic groups at a record high, but progress has been incredibly slow and there is much more to be done to support those already in service.
As of March 2023, there were 11,966 full-time equivalent officers from minority ethnic groups, making up 8.4 per cent of the workforce, up from 8.1 per cent in 2022.
Asian officers made up 3.8 per cent, those identifying as a mixed ethnic group made up 2.6 per cent, and those from another ethnic group made up 0.7 per cent. Black officers made up just 1.3 per cent the total workforce.
In 2022, the Police Race Action Plan was introduced by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing, setting out the ambition of police chiefs in England and Wales to build an anti-racist police service and address race disparities affecting black people working within or interacting with policing.
It pointed out the proportion of black officers has barely increased at all over the past decade. In 2010, black people made up 1.0 per cent of the force.
Temporary Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Dr Alison Heydari, Director, Police Race Action Plan, said: “When it comes to recruitment, retention and progression of our black workforce, there is much to be done.
“The Police Race Action Plan (PRAP) has highlighted this as a pressing issue and we have dedicated resources to address how we can better support this within policing.
“We want to understand the reasons for disparities and the implementation of annual ethnicity pay gap reports is underway to offer transparency and to open dialogues to address issues found.
“We’re also looking into the development of our black colleagues, focusing on results from the Black Workforce Survey to understand how we can improve and implement change.
“A Chief Officer and Black Executive peer network scheme is currently being piloted across several forces, which is encouraging professional conversations, aimed at improving policing for black people.
“There is more in the pipeline with plans including improving access to Black Police Associations and Race Equality Networks to colleagues who wish to have it and ensuring baseline support is provided to any member of staff who has been racially victimised or harassed.
“Chief officers will soon be meeting to collectively plan what the anti-racist policing of the future looks like and what we all need to do to get there.
“We have so much to accomplish and change but with efforts from everyone across policing, we can make communities within our ranks feel supported and valued and in turn do the best for the communities we serve.”
Police Federation of England and Wales National Chair Steve Hartshorn said: “Although some very gradual progress has been made on recruiting officers from minority ethnic groups there is still a long way to go for the service to reflect the communities it serves, even more so with black officers who make up such a tiny proportion of the workforce.
“PFEW supports the Police Race Action Plan, but we believe the NPCC could do more in the area of retention of black officers as historically they have focused much more on recruitment and promotion.
“We will continue to work with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing to ensure black police officers, and officers from other ethnic groups, are listened to, understood and supported.
“Recruitment is only one piece of the puzzle and it is crucial we look at, and address, the wider issues surrounding retention and career progression. Previous statistics have shown black officers are more likely to leave the force early through voluntary resignation.
“We welcome the steps being taken to overcome these challenges, including through mentoring and talent development, as well as new national standards for recruitment and progression informed by black people’s experiences. We hope to see the PRAP make a real, positive difference to the careers of our colleagues in the months ahead."