Black people in Thames Valley underrepresented in police force

Black people in Thames Valley are significantly underrepresented in their police force, new figures reveal.
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Home Office data shows there were just 20 black officers in Thames Valley Police at the end of March – a rate of 4.8 per 1,000 officers whose ethnicity was recorded.

But a recent analysis by the Government Statistical Service shows that 29.0 per 1,000 people in the local area are black – more than six times the rate in the police workforce.

Rates were calculated using police force area population estimates from mid-2016 – the latest year with an ethnicity breakdown.

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Police

A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said: “Thames Valley Police recognises the need to better reflect the communities we serve.

“We are committed to recruiting officers and staff from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups (BAME) as it is essential in maintaining public trust with all of our communities.

“We are aware that barriers may exist to those from ethnic minorities from joining the police service, which is also reflected nationally.

“We want to do all we can to remove these barriers.

“Our Positive Action & Engagement Team have been working to engage and recruit candidates from Black, Asian and other Ethnic Minorities to join Thames Valley Police.

“Their work has been successful, in the last round of police officer recruitment, 24 per cent of the total applicants came from a BAME background.

“This is just a small step and as a Force we will continue to engage with people from a diverse range of backgrounds to recruit them, so we are equipped to better understand the issues facing our communities and work to solve them.”

The National Black Police Association says disproportionate use of police powers on black people in England and Wales means fewer members of the community are attracted to policing as a career.

Across all police forces in England and Wales, 12.6 per 1,000 officers were black, while the figure for the population stood at 33.7.

Andy George, president of the National Black Police Association, said police forces have been too slow and inconsistent in addressing a lack of diversity in their ranks.

He said: “Black communities are facing the most disproportionate use of police powers, particularly stop and search and use of force.

“This will inevitably lead to fewer members of the community seeing policing as a viable career.”

Mr George said the Government’s pledge to recruit 20,000 extra officers by 2023 offered a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to make police forces reflective of the communities they serve.

He added: “The National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Government need to be bolder in their approach to this and advocate for a short period of positive discrimination during the uplift.”

A report released earlier this year by the Police Foundation think tank said increasing levels of diversity in police forces since 2007 had mainly been driven by the recruitment of Asian and mixed ethnicity officers, while black representation had “barely increased”.

In Thames Valley, there were 216 officers from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in March, up from 214 a year earlier.

This still under-represents the community – the figure accounts for 50.8 per 1,000 officers while BAME people make up 157.0 in 1,000 of the population – but the disparity is greater for black people specifically.

Across all 43 police forces, BAME officers accounted for 73.0 in 1,000 officers who stated their ethnicity, an increase from 69.4 the previous year and 46.2 in 2010.

But the Home Office said this still “considerably under-represents” those communities – BAME people make up 145.2 per 1,000 of England and Wales's population, according to mid-2016 estimates.

Mr George said grouping entire communities together under the umbrella term BAME leads to police forces not understanding the unique needs of individual communities and their trust in the police.

Ian Hopkins, the NPCC's lead for diversity, equality and inclusion, said: "The slower rate of progress in recruiting black police officers is likely to reflect the fact that confidence in police has historically been lower among black people than white or Asian."

But he added that the drive to recruit 20,000 new officers was a "generational opportunity" to address this.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The Government wants to see people from all backgrounds joining the police, with police forces that are representative of the community they serve.

“That’s why the Home Secretary has today written to police chiefs to urge them to grasp the opportunity the recruitment of 20,000 additional officers presents when it comes to diversifying the police.

“The Home Secretary has also discussed this issue with police leaders via the National Policing Board and is clear that she wants officers from all backgrounds to be able to progress up the ranks.”