Monday, 3 June 2013

Metropolitan Police And Affirmative Action: Playing politics with equality legislation.

The news that the MPS has asked for a change in the law to allow for affirmative action type laws ensuring one-to-one recruitment of police officers has cause quite a stir.

As the Policing Director for London for former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone I was responsible for driving forward Black recruitment in the Met. We had a remarkable degree of success in attracting Black and Asian candidates.

Spot the Black Police Officer.
One of the fundamental principles of policing a multicultural city like London, right up there with policing by consent, is the requirement that police  must reflect the communities they serve. To often, in many areas of London the Met looks like a foreign army of occupation.

A representative police service is an absolutely critical requirement for the building of trust and confidence among communities who have a history of suffering from unrestrained police racism and brutality.

Institutional racism is still a huge problem in the Met. In recent years police/black communities relationships have suffered huge set backs. Suspicious deaths of black men in police custody, stop and search, the August 2011 riots and the dismantling of the Mets policy forums and committee’s, tasked with monitoring the implementation and progress of important Lawrence report recommendations all have contributed to the current impasse. 

The consequences of this political attack on McPherson, by Government and Boris Johnson has been huge resurgence of police racism.  Internal and external race complaints against the Met are currently at an all time high.

This has ended what I call the “post McPherson settlement” between Black communities and the Police, made possible when the Police admitted that they needed to deal with institutional racism.

Black communities decided, that given that admission and the commitment to change, we would now engage with police officers in tackling crime. The change in relations was dramatic.

Whilst in the Mayors office I was determined to take a long hard look at this issue.

I instructed that analysis be done assessing how long would it take the Met to become representative of London, at the current rate of Black recruitment.

The answer was 80 years. We also found out that if the Met were to recruit 100% Black and Asian police officers, for the entirety of the Mayoral term, we would still only reach a 10% target.

I convinced all concerned that we could not entertain such bone achingly slow progress.

I procured a top Barristers opinion on the use of existing law that determined it was lawful, under positive discrimination, for all future police recruitment to be exclusively targeted at Black and Asian communities.

We worked out the total number of police officers being recruited in the each of the following year and set a target employment quotas for each individual quarter, backed up with monthly reports to me that indicated whether recruitment was on track.

Failure to achieve was not an option. The Commissioner regularly reported progress being made to the Mayor who made it crystal clear that this was a clear political priority.

The number of Black and Asian police officers recruited into the Met increased by 100% during 2002 and 2007.  For the first time in the Mets history, the majority applications came from Black and Asian communities.

The proposal that there should be a one-to-one Black/White recruitment does not need additional legalisation and in fact will produce change at a much slower pace than that achieved by the Met under my 100% Black and Asian recruitment policy.

Whilst I would agree we need a change to anti discriminatory laws particularly to drive forward equality in private sector employment practice, the fact is the Met and the Mayor are simply playing political games.

They could right now, lawfully target all their recruitment at Black and Asian communities. Postulating a need for a change to the law to enable one-to-one recruitment is simply a ruse.

I believe this represents a cynical attempt to blame the law for what is in essence a failure of political and professional leadership.

The top brass at the Met and the Mayors office are aware that police and Black and Asian relations are so bad, that currently there is a net loss of such officers and community confidence is at an all time low.

They calculate, they have little chance of attracting sufficient numbers of Black candidates in the forthcoming round of recruitment and by running up this idea up the flagpole now they can blame future failure on the law later on.

Cynical maybe? However, the truth is whilst in office, we achieved a radical transformation of the Met ethnic officer workforce profile within the exiting law. Boris Johnson and Commissioner Hogan Howe have chosen not to do so, the question one has to ask is why?