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Suffolk: Are the police still guilty of institutional racism?

13:15 11 March 2014

Franstine Jones , who has made history as the first woman president of the National Black Police Association.

Franstine Jones , who has made history as the first woman president of the National Black Police Association.

Sarah Lucy brown

Police forces across the country are still blighted by institutional racism, stopping and searching a disproportionately high number of black people and failing to recruit and promote enough people from ethnic minorities.

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That’s the verdict of Franstine Jones, who works in Suffolk Police’s diversity unit and was elected president of the National Black Police Association (NBPA) in October, the first woman to hold the post in the organisation’s history and the first civilian.

Her damning comments come days after Home Secretary Theresa May announced a judge-led public inquiry into undercover policing after a review found a Metropolitan Police officer spied on the family of Stephen Lawrence, who was fatally stabbed in a racist attack by a gang of white teenagers in 1993, and may have misled an earlier public inquiry into the handling of the case led by Sir William Macpherson, a retired High Court judge.

Sir William’s report, which was published in 1999, accused the Met of “institutional racism” and made 70 recommendations aimed at “the elimination of racist prejudice and disadvantage and the demonstration of fairness in all aspects of policing”.

Fifteen years on Ms Jones recognises that progress has been made but says the police service is still guilty of institutional racism.

“There have been improvements but not enough to make the difference that is needed,” she said. “If you look at the (Macpherson) inquiry’s definition of institutional racism it clearly still exists in the police service today.

“If there wasn’t institutional racism you would not have more black people than white people being stopped and searched and you would have real black and ethnic minority representation in the police service. It takes so long for a black person to progress in the police service that by the time they do progress they are getting close to retirement. Why don’t we have any ethnic minority police officer above the rank of sergeant in Suffolk?

“It is about trust and confidence in the police service. If you don’t see a police force that represents you, why would you put yourself in that environment (and join)?

“If you are black you are more likely to be stopped and searched. If you are black you are more likely to be represented in the criminal justice system and if you are black you are more likely not to progress than your white counterparts. If you are black you are more likely to be the victim of a crime than your white counterparts so when you look at who has the power to make decisions, what does that look like?”

Ms Jones acknowledges huge improvements have been made since Stephen Lawrence’s murder and says that in Suffolk Chief Constable Douglas Paxton and other senior officers are committed to recruiting more officers from ethnic minorities and addressing other areas of concern.

But, she adds, all the evidence is that much work remains to be done - both locally and nationally.

Figures published by StopWatch, which aims to address excess and disproportionate stop and search, show across Suffolk black people are stopped and searched by police at a rate of 4.7 times that of whites. People from mixed backgrounds and Asians are searched at 2.3 and 1.4 times the rate of whites, respectively. Nationally, black people are six times more likely to be stopped than whites and Asians and other minorities twice as likely.

In addition, a 2009 report by the Home Affairs Select Committee into the progress made towards tackling racism in the police since Macpherson found a target of employing 7% of officers from black and ethnic minority populations by 2009 had failed, with the overall percentage nationally rising from around 2% to only 4.1%.

An Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) spokeswoman said: “Much has changed in the police service over the last 20 years. While there is still further to go, the service has shown that it is willing to listen and learn from past events.

“The debate around the use of stop and search is complex. Without taking into account the nature of the search, where it takes place and the legislation under which it has been made, looking at disproportionality alone is too simplistic to tell us anything of value.

“Used correctly, stop and search can help cut crime and protect the public. It is intelligence-led, which means searches tend to target crime hotspots and particular areas and we recognise this can lead to a disproportionate effect on some groups and communities. Chief officers have been working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Home Office to improve use of stop and search.

“Police leaders have been vocal about the need for constructive conversation about how we make policing more diverse and representative of our communities because progress has been difficult and too slow. Police chiefs are doing all they can within current law but have questioned whether, without more radical change, policing will be able to increase representation as quickly as we want and need to.”

Suffolk Police Assistant Chief Constable David Skevington said: “Suffolk Constabulary is committed to dealing fairly with all sections of the community. The number of people from a BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) background who are actually being stopped and searched in the county is relatively low, therefore any slight increase in the number of people being stopped and searched can have a significant impact.

“However, the constabulary has comprehensive equality assurance procedures in place to ensure all encounters are carried out in accordance with the relevant codes of practice and only when officers have appropriate grounds.

“Additionally we work with the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality, the Stop and Search Improvement Partnership, and the Stop and Search Reference Group to ensure our use of the Stop and Search powers is fair and effective.

“Suffolk Constabulary actively encourages officers of BME backgrounds to seek progression within the police if that is a road they choose to take.”

Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore admitted there was work to do but said: “It is an integral part of our police and crime plan that the workforce reflects the community it serves. On stop and search I am concerned to make sure that it is used in the correct manner.”

Macpherson’s definition of institutional racism

“The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.”

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9 comments

  • The police can never win this argument ! This woman needs to look alot closer at the black or ethnic community and see where those that bring up the young in their communities are failing . Too many black youths die from gang feuds involving drugs and guns , proven fact and the Met police have a specific unit dealing with this . There is not a unit set to look into white youths dieing related to guns and drugs , why not ? Two shootings in ipswich in the last ten years both linked to the black community . Etc etc . Franstine needs to really look somewhere else for the solution to ethnic problems . Grounds for stop and search are always scrutinized closely , but still the black youth is more likely to be stopped and searched , there is a clue there raisec by mr king earlier

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    Poppys Dad

    Tuesday, March 11, 2014

  • In order to carry out a stop and search the police must have "reasonable grounds for suspicion", as stated in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (1984). A record of the search is produced by the officer conducting the search and copy of said record is given to the person stopped. Could someone out there or at Suffolk Constabulary please explain the purpose and the cost of the diversity unit? My feeling is that the money would be better spent on providing a few more Police Constables or PCSOs.

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    BigGeoff

    Tuesday, March 11, 2014

  • Can not say whether the Police are institutionally rascist but there is plenty of evidence to suggest this in other areas.Clubs not letting in Eastern Europeans.Traders harassing foreign traders & getting security to chase them out of town.

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    JC

    Wednesday, March 12, 2014

  • waspie's wife..I echo comments asking why is there a Black Police Officers Association and instead of money spent on a diversity unit, money would be better spent on guiding ALL young people away from the drug problems, with say more warranted police on the beat.

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    waspie

    Wednesday, March 12, 2014

  • The real danger here is that police officers will be so scared of being labled racist, that they will not bother doing stop and searches on black people, which will lead to more stabbings and shootings.

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    RC

    Wednesday, March 12, 2014

  • The existence of the National Black Police Association sounds very much like institutional racism. One is either a police office or not; and with one objective - to uphold the law. Imagine the understandable uproar if there was a National White Police Association launched. No other trade union has a "Black" (their chosen word, not mine) branch so why the Police should be so different surprises and dismays me.

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    Steve Blake

    Tuesday, March 11, 2014

  • Blah Blah... Change the record. Im sorry, but if you watch the likes of crimewatch and see the wall of shame they tend to include a high proportion of minority groups. Added to which if a crime is committed and the witness identifies the individual responsible as black, it would be fair to assume that stop and search would be carried out targeting that minority group. The bottom line is blacks do commit crime, as do whites, asians etc. I would rather stop and search was carried out as opposed to not. At the very least it helps to remove weapons, drugs etc of our streets; and generally disrupt crime.

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    Johnie Redwood

    Tuesday, March 11, 2014

  • In my opinion the most racist part of this story is the existence of the "national black police association" which clearly encourages segregation and discrimination by its own existence! People should be employed because they are good at a job not because they are the right colour to fill quotas, equally if people do not want to want to work for the police they can't be forced to simply because they are of a certain colour. I wouldn't mind betting that more men are stopped and searched than women, but does that automatically make it sexist? In my opinion to be treated equally people need to behave equally, not blame everything on their colour, race, religion, gender etc.

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    MZH

    Wednesday, March 12, 2014

  • Staying away from the race angle, ask the Suffolk Constabulary how many posts there are now for ranks above sergeant? They have been reduced somewhat. Years ago, there were Superintendents, Chief Inspectors and Inspectors in the larger stations. Now you are lucky if you can find a constable. Most shifts had a Sergeant on shift. Now they are so rare, only seen in the detentioninterview centres ?

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    The original Victor Meldrew

    Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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