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22 Oct, 2021 10:57

Priti Patel’s idea of fast-tracking BAME police officers to top jobs will only demoralise an already browbeaten force

Priti Patel’s idea of fast-tracking BAME police officers to top jobs will only demoralise an already browbeaten force

The Home Secretary has given the boys in blue another kicking, criticising their failure to recruit Black and Ethnic Minority people or promote them to the top of the organisation. This virtue signalling is daft and dangerous.

Priti Patel has decided to fast track people of colour to the top roles in policing. That’ll do one thing for certain; further discourage and demotivate everyone, white and black, whom you rely on in British policing come to you when you or your family are in trouble.

You know, when you have a burglar in your back garden at night, or your daughter has been indecently assaulted on the way home from school. Luckily, most of the police on the streets will dismiss this latest idea as ignorant and just get on with the job. But it will make a lot of them much less nosey or keen to get involved in incidents. I hope those aren’t the ones you get when you need them.

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The criticism will make them feel sad and it will provoke many more to leave. This is already a big problem. The police are haemorrhaging expensively recruited, vetted, trained, and experienced people to the far more lucrative and less risky private sector. Here their skills of handling people, problem solving, decisiveness and inquisitiveness make them valuable employees. Those already leaving include Black and Minority Ethnic officers who are even more desirable to businesses wanting quality people who help them meet diversity targets.

Don’t be fooled, the Prime Minister’s 20,000 new, untrained and inexperienced officers will be a poor substitute for a while, before many of them also decide to leave.

Why would Priti Patel do such a thing? What problem is she trying to solve that will be helped by having a few more black superintendents in the police, and to get the numbers right, one-and-a-half black chief constables out of 44? (Black people are 3% of the UK population.)

What exactly does she think will stop once one in every 30 police superintendents or 37 out of the existing 1,277 is black? The massive disproportionality of young black males, at less than 1% of the population making up nearly 15% of the total murder victims in the UK? A very significant majority of all the black youths shot or stabbed, often to death by black youths from dying or being maimed? Half the population of our youth custody centres being BAME. Remember young people now normally only go to prison for serious violence or drug dealing. Lots of them are the ones who shot or stabbed their fellow black youth.

Will a black superintendent in Peckham or Brixton stop all the shooting victims at the regional trauma unit at Kings College Hospital being young black males?

Will it stop the 2011 Tottenham riots again? Given at that time, the Area Commander was a Muslim of Asian heritage, the Borough Commander a female, her second in command a Sikh of Asian heritage and her third in command a chief inspector of Jamaican heritage, one could think diversifying the police leadership is not worth a jot when dealing with violent young black youths. It is nonsense; you see, to those who don’t like the police, the colour that bothers them isn’t black or white, it is blue. A copper is a copper to them, and all coppers are bastards. 

Equally, to the police whether you are from Mars or Venus doesn’t matter, once you put on the blue, you are one of us. Do not stand at the backdoor to a police station when a police officer calls for ‘urgent assistance’. The Fire Brigade has got nothing on the speed of stampeding officers rushing to help their colleague. Black, white, gay, female or whatever, if you are a cop in trouble we will come running.

Or to turn this to a leadership issue because that’s what we pay our superintendents to do, lead. Will Priti Patel’s idea force the Metropolitan Police to do more to stop black youths harming each other?

Given that the current lead for this in the Met is a well-educated and able black female Commander (a chief officer grade), I doubt it. I should add in case you think that the rest of the 20-plus Met senior leaders are thick, they all have at least one degree, with most having masters or PhDs. There’s a few more BAME senior officers amongst them as well, including the national head of counter terrorism.

Perhaps the token black superintendents might be able to stop teenage black girls being gang raped on council estates or in schools, because it happens to quite a lot of them by black boys. We just don’t talk about it.

After 30 years policing the inner city I can say, of course not. Knee-jerk sound bites about pushing black people unfairly to the top will be disastrous for the police and our safety. Particularly in the black community.

Here’s why: You cannot force people to be inquisitive, investigate, confront wrongdoers, stop and search those who may appear to be suspicious, arrest people or even be compassionate to victims and help them, therefore you cannot simply magic up a huge new number of potential police officers.

Before you argue with this, we’ve all seen the social media videos where police back off rather than intervene. That’s what happens when police are demotivated and badly led.

You do not change that by changing the melanin levels of their Superintendents. You change it by selecting proven leaders who have the respect and trust of their workforce.

I have worked with many black and Asian officers over the years, I have played a part in developing their careers and getting some of them promoted. You will have even seen some of them as media pundits on policing on the TV or have read their books. I love to see them succeed.

I assisted them in their policing careers because they were good at what they did and I knew that they would be even better as an inspector, chief inspector or Superintendent. I have even mentored and counselled a few to try and become Chief Officers. (Assistant Chief Constable/Commander or above). They all deserved to be promoted, their staff and communities knew it and respected them for it. But imagine the future Priti Patel wants, with constables, sergeants and inspectors being led by someone they know only got there because they are BAME.

Worse, imagine being a black mum hoping the Senior Investigating detective will get justice for your murdered son and knowing ‘the guvnor’ only got there because they are black, not because they are competent. I have worked with senior black and Asian detectives; I never doubted their abilities for a moment.

Perhaps the one I admire the most is Michael Fuller, of Jamaican heritage, he was brought up in foster care by a white ‘auntie’ and went on to join the now defunct (cut to save money) full-time paid Metropolitan Police cadets at 16. He did so with no O or A levels.

The Police gave him the opportunity and education he craved, they even sent him to university gaining a law degree and later qualifying as a barrister. But more importantly he went on to be a Deputy Assistant Commissioner in the Met before becoming the first black chief constable, taking over Kent Police, one of the larger forces in the country.

I have no doubt that Mr Fuller faced bigotry from some idiotic morons within the force but much more from some black youths. I recall he once said, when standing on the frontline in the Brixton riots of the ‘80s, he could hear them yelling “kill the black one first.” Mr Fuller would not be seen as a token, he was good at what he did, and reached more a senior rank than I. Let’s not tarnish his or any of the other fine BAME officers achievements with the Home Secretary’s virtue-signalling tokenism.

Priti Patel is also battering the police for not recruiting enough ethnic minorities. This shows no understanding of why people will, or will not, join the police. Worse, it lacks subtlety, lumping all persons of colour into one box, in some vain hope it might make police relationships with young black people better.

Let me demonstrate this nonsense. I personally sponsored the first Gurkha to get his British passport and join the UK police when he left the Army in his early forties. A Nepali man with five children, he was lauded as someone who would add value and boost the brown faces in the police. He was a brave man and leader, he had been commended for bravery in East Timor, leading his platoon with fixed bayonets to clear a built-up area while Australian troops in armoured vehicles decided not to risk it.

My Gurkha friend did add value, but he made no better inroads with black youth than any other officer; he had nothing in common with them. He did his job and as with so many Asian immigrants went on to see his children become doctors, dentists and teachers. Not one of them ever considered joining the police. Nor would he have wanted them to, he desired better.

This is a fact not often discussed about non-indigenous Britons. Their families come to the UK because they want better for their children. Whether they come from African countries with hated, brutal, thieving corrupt police forces, Asian countries with similar police attitudes or in the case of Priti Patel’s family, as refugees from Uganda, forced out by murderous Ugandan Police. Why would any parent who uprooted themselves from their home country come to the UK actively encouraging their children to join the police? They want their children to be doctors, lawyers, pharmacists and accountants; professionals; or to succeed in business. They don’t want them to join the police for a starting salary of a piffling £19 thousand a year.

But what of those of Caribbean heritage? This is another issue. Single parenting is disproportionately high as are rates of teenage pregnancy. Gone are the days of the Windrush generation with hardworking, married parents, pulling double shifts to help their children prosper. In large chunks of the Caribbean community, their boys are bereft of positive male role models. Hence, in the inner cities so many go off the rails and pick up a record. This is a problem for police recruitment from that community as someone with a significant criminal record already cannot be recruited. This was the case before the tragic murder of Sarah Everard at the hands of Wayne Couzens and will only become stricter now.

On top of these barriers, most people join the police because they have had a positive experience with serving officers that lets them do two things: see behind the uniform and what a fantastically varied and worthwhile job it is. Hence many coppers are second- or even third-generation police within their families. The retiring head of the National Crime Agency followed her father and brother into the Met. In my case I followed my father, uncle, mother and brother, later to be joined by another brother, and now three more of our sons.

My two best friends either followed their father into the job or their sons did. Sadly, one has already left taking his two degrees with him, fearing no future advancement as a white male. He has already tripled his salary in the private sector.

The issue is simple really, understand that recruitment to policing is best achieved by individuals who talk about their job to people they know personally and socially. Creating the mechanisms to do that is the key.

It is not helped by the latest cuts to policing effectively stopping police competing in all forms of sport: soccer, rugby, netball, hockey etc. Thus, cutting off a route to interact socially into the inner city BAME communities. What better way to build a relationship than over a pint or glass of wine after a kick around? 

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Overall, you couldn’t make it up, the latest followup by Priti Patel of the current path of ‘Police Reform’ set out and driven so disastrously by Teresa May is so shallow, lacking in understanding or any strategic vision. I fear the level of service we all receive from the police will continue to fall and cost more as the Government plays whack-a-mole with the police, knee-jerking to whatever the latest crisis the media scares us with.

But hey, what do I know? I’ve only been involved in policing for 40 years.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.