Skip to main content

Police: Recruitment and Retention

Volume 795: debated on Tuesday 12 February 2019


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made towards implementing the recommendations on the recruitment and retention of police officers in the report of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, published in February 1999.

My Lords, the police workforce is more representative in gender and ethnicity than it has ever been. The recommendations made by the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report on police recruitment and retention have been implemented. However, the Government are absolutely clear that there is more for forces to do to ensure that the police workforce reflects the diversity of the communities that it serves.

I thank the Minister for her Answer. This month marks the 20th anniversary of the inquiry. There were 70 recommendations but I will ask the Minister about only recommendation 64, which addresses the recruitment and retention of minority officers and staff. It says that the Home Secretary and police authorities’ policing plans,

“should include targets for recruitment, progression and retention of minority ethnic staff”,

that the Home Office should,

“facilitate the development of initiatives to increase the number of qualified minority ethnic recruits”,

and that HMIC should include,

“in a thematic inspection a report on the progress made by Police Services”.

I find it really difficult to find any report giving me an update. Can the Minister give the House an update on recommendation 64 on recruitment and retention since the report was published?

I pay tribute to the noble Baroness and all that she has achieved on some of the recommendations that have come out of the report. On the three recommendations she talked about, there are several things going on. She will have seen the race disparity audit, which is published by the Government and continually updated on the government website to show exactly where the disparities lie and where improvements need to be made. Last year, the NPCC produced a diversity, equality and inclusion strategy led by Chief Constable Gareth Wilson. It attempts, across all areas of the police, to increase inclusion and diversity. The superintendents’ association and college have a mentoring and coaching scheme precisely to improve the recruitment of BME staff. The figure has improved, but the noble Baroness is right to ask the question because we have much further to go.

My Lords, I am told that, recently, almost 50% of all black and minority-ethnic officers of superintendent rank and above in the Metropolitan Police were under investigation of one kind or another. It is also alleged that a recent promotion selection process in the Metropolitan Police contained a test that was known to be culturally biased, and that some BME officers who passed every other part of the assessment were failed because they did not pass the culturally biased part. Will the Minister look into what appear to be allegations of institutional racism?

My Lords, these are very serious allegations indeed and I will of course look into them. If officers are under investigation, it may be more difficult for me, but the allegation that 50% of BME staff at superintendent rank or above are under investigation is very concerning.

My Lords, I support the bid from the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence, to increase the recruitment of minority-ethnic officers. By the time I left the Met, one in three of our recruits was from a minority, but I am still worried. For the past three years we have seen no recruitment because of lack of resources. This means there has been a pause in the change in make-up of all our police forces. I encourage the Minister and the Government to consider the Northern Ireland approach, as instigated by the noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes. It did not change at all the standards for recruitment—people were offered a place in order of ability, but also in order of their representation in society. In the Northern Ireland context, therefore, unionists got jobs later and Catholics tended to get them earlier. I seriously think it is worth considering this in a UK context, given that we still see underrepresentation in our police service, as in many public services.

I certainly agree with the noble Lord that positive action is absolutely necessary. I take his point about less recruitment happening in recent years. Now is the moment to put that positive action into place and encourage people from BME backgrounds to come forward and apply for roles in the police.

My Lords, in recent years television programmes have taken seriously the issue of role modelling: look at the BBC’s “Luther” and ITV’s DS Sunny Khan in “Unforgotten”. But these role models cannot be just fictional. Will the Minister outline the statistics for those in the senior ranks of our forces from a black and minority-ethnic background?

My noble friend points to an area where we are doing very badly: the senior ranks. In 2017-18, 27% of new recruits to the Met Police were from a BME background. To get people from BME backgrounds through to the senior ranks, we need new recruits as the pipeline for the future. She talked about role models, and I take this opportunity to give my good wishes to the brother of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary as he proceeds up the ranks of the police.

My Lords, the recommendations in the inquiry begin by talking about:

“Openness, accountability and the restoration of confidence”,

and the need:

“To increase trust and confidence in policing among minority ethnic communities”.

What level of confidence is there in policing among the black and ethnic-minority communities?

My Lords, it is certainly something that we have to work on and that the police have to work on. Whether you are talking about a democratic system or organisations such as the police, you need recruits from BME backgrounds because it is important that they look like and are in tune with the communities that they serve.