Merseyside Police Chief Constable Serena Kennedy has pledged that Black communities in Merseyside will be involved and represented in policing and not ‘under protected or over policed’.
Chief Constable Kennedy, said: “We know that policing, like society, is not free of racial discrimination, bias and disproportionality.
“It still exists in some policies and processes, and we are taking action to change this.
“We collectively want to improve, we want to progress, we want to be better.
“Progress has been made, but we know we need to do more.
“We are committed to this and this is something I am passionate about and I know that my predecessors were also invested in.”
The Police Race Action Plan will focus on the relationship between the police and Black people and communities because the racial disparities affecting Black people in the criminal justice system and working in policing are the most acute.
In Merseyside there has already been a seven year plan (2018-2025) named the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Strategy.
This ongoing work has included police staff gaining a better understanding of diversity, gathering data on the Merseyside communities the police serve to better understand them and police dealing with hate crimes effectively.
Earlier this month, Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell said that racism and inequality ‘permeate all our public institutions’ including the Merseyside Police.
Chief Constable Kennedy, said: “As a result of this ongoing work we are already seeing a positive direction of travel in almost all of our processes where we have identified disproportionality.
“Within Merseyside Police I am determined that officers and staff from across the organisation work together and have open conversations so we can drive and embed change.
“We need to have an environment where proper debate can take place and where people have the ability to speak and be heard so we can learn, grow and move forward together.”
Merseyside Police action plan
Chief Constable Kennedy has hosted Listening in Action sessions with her officers and staff and plans to continue this into the future - their aim to discuss how the organisation can become more inclusive, whilst identifying outdated practises that should be removed.
Merseyside Police have developed an action plan which details how they will serve the Black community.
It includes steps such as:
- Increasing knowledge of the history of policing on Black communities and the ongoing impact and trauma of disproportionality (all staff will complete a mandatory training programme).
- Changing recruitment processes to eliminate discrimination and bias.
- Improve and address disparities and experiences of Black officers such as the ethnicity pay gap.
- Give Black people a voice to influence how Merseyside is policed.
- Take decisive action to address the needs and concerns of the Black community and encourage citizen participation.
- Develop a programme of work to understand crime types disproportionately impacting on Black people.
- Develop a more effective police response to hate crime.
Chief Constable Kennedy, said:”We have been working hard to ensure that under-represented groups, including Black people are properly represented within our organisation and that their development and progression is supported.
“Our 2021 recruitment attracted a noticeably higher proportion of minority ethnicity applicants than in previous years, but we know there is still much more work to be done.”
How many new recruits to Merseyside Police are Black officers?
Last year 21 new Black officers joined Merseyside Police, 1% of the total number of 2,074 new recruits.
In 2020 there were just 10 new Black officers.
One area that the police are keen to work on is Stop and Search.
“Stop and Search is a crucial policing power which has allowed us to tackle and prevent serious and organised crime - seizing weapons, drugs, and arresting those who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs,” said Chief Constable Kennedy.
“Of course, it can only be a crucial policing power if it is used fairly and properly.
“Over the last few years, we have introduced a number of measures to ensure integrity in use of the powers, including a policy for officers to activate body worn cameras during stop and searches to capture evidence.
“Our communities understand why we use stop and search and tell us that they don’t want us to stop using the power but stress that we must eliminate disproportionality, use it properly and insure that it is intelligence led and based on criminality.”
Stop and search figures for Merseyside Police
Chief Constable Kennedy said the most recent data shows that Black people are 1.5 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched in Merseyside.
Meanwhile, the regions force used Section 60 searches more times than any other force in the country.
The Home Office recently announced it is lifting restrictions on Section 60 searches, which allow police to search people without reasonable grounds if serious violence is expected.
Zero-tolerence approach to racism in policing
“I want Merseyside Police to be recognised as a police force that is anti-racist and trusted by all,” continued Chief Constable Kennedy.
“I can say hand on heart that the overwhelming majority of my officers and staff join the force to do good and make a difference for all the communities they serve, unfortunately there are a few who do not uphold the same high standards and behaviour as the vast majority of the force and their actions can seriously undermine the exemplary work being done by officers and staff every day.
“We will take a zero-tolerence approach to racism in policing.”
She revealed that between January 2021 and December 2021 there were three gross misconduct hearings and one staff hearing related to racial misconduct involving offensive material stored and shared on phones as well as racist comments.
All three were dismissed without notice and placed on the College of Policing Barred List. She said the staff member was a Police Community Support Officer, who resigned prior to the hearing.
“However the case was proven in her absence and the finding was that had she still been serving she would have been dismissed without notice,” she added.
Merseyside residents can speak up on how they would like the police to work with the Black community moving forward in this survey here.