An initiative designed to address racism in policing in England and Wales is facing allegations of racism from some of the ethnic minority staff involved. The Police Race Action Plan was established following the tragic murder of African-American George Floyd in the US in 2020. Its objective is to foster improved relationships between the police and black communities. However, BBC Newsnight has interviewed former staff members who claim that their perspectives were disregarded within the initiative.
One anonymous black individual disclosed to the BBC that they believed individuals like them were perceived as “troublemakers or difficult” for sharing their viewpoints. They expressed their growing frustration as their voice and personal and professional experiences were repeatedly ignored. The staff member also highlighted instances of differential treatment, such as being denied additional support during periods of increased workload compared to their white colleagues.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) collaborated with the College of Policing to develop the race action plan. Released in May, the plan acknowledges the existence of racism, discrimination, and bias within the police force. It expresses remorse for these realities and emphasises the commitment to effecting change, gaining the confidence of black individuals, including police staff, and enhancing their policing experience.
Chief Constable Gavin Stephens, Chairman of the NPCC and lead of the Police Race Action Plan, declared his dedication to delivering an anti-discrimination, anti-racist police service. He emphasised the gravity with which he approaches concerns raised internally or externally regarding the conduct of anyone within the police force. Chief Constable Stephens made it clear that individuals with toxic attitudes, whether racist, misogynistic, homophobic, or discriminatory, have no place in policing. Furthermore, he asserted his commitment to ensuring that those who trust the police the least have the most opportunity to influence the program.
However, the BBC has obtained documentation outlining additional complaints from ethnic minority individuals involved in the program, with some questioning the plan’s credibility and true intentions. Some participants claimed that their negative experiences were disregarded in favour of maintaining a positive narrative. A former black team member expressed complete disillusionment with the entire process, finding it perplexing that such racist behaviours could manifest within a program aimed at improving the experiences of black individuals working with or interacting with the police. This led them to question the sincerity of the police’s commitment to tangible change.
Andy George, President of the National Black Police Association (NBPA), revealed that supported members of the association had highlighted instances where they felt marginalised and sidelined within the plan. He noted that, at times, they were made to feel as though they were the problem and that their assertiveness and advocacy were met with gaslighting. This highlights the challenges faced by black individuals within the initiative.
Deputy Chief Constable Tyron Joyce, one of the most senior black officers in UK policing and responsible for the strategy, retired in May, following an unrelated allegation of bullying at the unit. He has not commented on the recent allegations.
In response to the concerns raised, NPCC Chair Gavin Stephens assured Newsnight that a refreshed action plan would be issued, expressing confidence in its ability to deliver the necessary changes for the workforce and the communities they serve. He emphasised the importance of being judged based on actions rather than words. While unaware of any official complaints or allegations regarding racism, Chief Constable Stephens expressed deep sadness upon hearing of the experiences expressed in the report. He acknowledged the need for transformative change within policing and stressed the renewed determination to achieve this goal.