Monday, June 29, 2020

Adressing institutional racism in the police and the armed forces





The murder of George Floyd by a US police officer in Minneapolis on May 25th 2020 has sparked international protests against the racism experienced by black people. There is a risk that the focus may drift into a discussion about statues and related generalities. It would be good if politicians, as well as demonstrating support and solidarity for Black Lives Matter movement, could also come forward with a radical, hard edged policy proposal that could be put forward in Parliament, hopefully with cross-party support.

This paper puts forward the proposal that police and senior Home Office officials should be required to re-apply for their jobs.

It is evident that the police service is still infected with the institutional racism that Sir William Macpherson found in his 1999 inquiry into the Stephen Laurence killing. Windrush shows that the Home Office is also affected by the same problem.

It is clear that we need crisp, clear-cut political changes in the police and Home Office. Without a clear policy goal, the momentum created by the Black Lives Matter movement will be diffused and absorbed into a few minor attitudinal changes. If the Green Party leads with a single, radical and effective objective, we may break through the barrier of indifference, and even if we do not succeed in delivering, we will certainly ensure that whatever changes follow will go further than if we do not provide a lead.

The proposal is that every police officer, and higher-rank Home Office officials should be required to re-apply for their jobs. The application process would include a written attitudinal examination and an interview. The written paper would be designed to pick up false prejudices relating to BAME people and other groups who may be seen in a prejudicial light. The officers’ service record would also be examined.

Wrong answers presented by the candidate would be brought to attention, and correct facts would be provided. Education programmes could be run for all officers, covering such topics as the history of slavery in the UK and the experience of racism.

The pass mark would be set, and low-scoring candidates might be accepted, but put on probation and re-tested after a few months. Some very low-scoring candidates would not be accepted.

The re-application would be rolled out in a phased way, with a manageable number of candidates examined each month.

Although the proposal may seem radical, re-applying for one’s job is a routine in some forms of employment, for instance, in the case of researchers employed by some Universities.

In order to sweeten the pill of this necessary filter process, reforms to the conditions of service should be brought in - simple practical reforms such as reviewing and improving the comfort and weather proofing of the police uniform, and bringing in limits to the number of hours police may be asked to work.