Response to GMP's Achieving Race Equality report
Greater Manchester Police’s recent report looking as issues of race equality provides some promising progress on policing and race, but also raises uncomfortable questions that all forces need to be answering.
Community groups and stakeholders consistently raise concerns with us about discrimination and disproportionality. We also see these issues in the investigations we carry out at the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
The conversation around discrimination is one that needs to be had if we are to see any meaningful improvement.
The Achieving Race Equality report shows that Black people were 5.3 times more likely than white people to have had a Taser used against them by GMP. The fact this is less than the national average of 9 times is missing the point that disproportionality still exists and the community deserve a clear and transparent answer from police on why this is.
This is not just a Greater Manchester Police problem. Every negative interaction someone has with the police, erodes their confidence that the police will protect and serve them.
Police need to work hard to restore and maintain this confidence. As long as certain communities are more likely to be stopped and searched, or subjected to the use of force, that will not happen – and ultimately that will undermine the legitimacy of policing.
We have issued national and force level recommendations, calling upon forces to tackle this problem in order to improve policing and confidence. Last year for example, we made 11 recommendations to the Metropolitan Police Service following a series of investigations involving the stop and search of Black men.
I was particularly interested to note the report’s findings relating to evidence of bias, such as officers being more likely to refer to size and strength when justifying their use of force against a Black person. This is something we have seen in our own work.
Frequent or exaggerated references to perceived size and strength can align to commonly held stereotypes and seeing a person in such a way can increase the likelihood of force and restraint being used. It is vital that officers are aware of this.
Discrimination in all its forms is not a problem that can be fixed overnight or by any single organisation – but without decisive action from the police it is not an issue that is going to go away.
We will continue to push for the improvements that are so badly needed. Our ongoing race discrimination work examines recent cases to look for trends and patterns, as well as directly engaging with what our communities are telling us. We are working with all forces, academics, scrutiny groups and those with lived experience. We will be publishing an interim report on our progress with the review this summer.
Some of the response to the findings in GMP’s report was disappointing. First and foremost, tackling racism requires police forces to take decisive action to address discrimination. Someone being five times more likely to be stopped and searched, rather than the national average of nine, is still not good enough.
This report provides welcome transparency and outlines actions on what is being done to drive change. We recognise the work that forces are doing but policing still has a long way to go. Acknowledging there is a problem is an important first step.
Amanda Rowe, IOPC Regional Director for the North West