New anti-racism policing plan is 'crucial', says senior Suffolk officer
- Credit: Gregg Brown
A new national plan aimed at tackling racism in police forces is "a crucial piece of work", according to a senior Suffolk officer.
The Police Race Action Plan, which was launched on Tuesday to tackle discrimination, address unfairness in the way black people are treated and boost the number of black officers, was welcomed by Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Kearton.
As part of the plan, there will be mandatory training for all police officers and staff about racism, anti-racism, and black history as well as introducing a new national standard across all recruitment and promotion processes.
The action plan will be put out for public scrutiny before it is updated in December.
Dept Ch Con Kearton said: "We really welcome the plan. In Suffolk, we've been doing a lot of work around increasing our representation, looking at the use of powers - a lot of the things that are covered in the plan.
"But what this does is it enables us to come in line with other good practice happening around the country in terms of addressing both the service we deliver to black communities but also some of our encouragement, attraction and recruitment into the police service and support for our black colleagues."
Police chiefs behind the plan have insisted it is not about political correctness or being "woke" but "good policing", and Dept Ch Con Kearton described it as "essential".
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"This is such a crucial piece of work," she said. "People will describe in lots of different ways. For me, this is essential to us being able to deliver a quality service that is equitable to all people that need to use us.
"If we've got vulnerable victims living in Suffolk that need to access the police service then we need to be representative, we need to be able to understand their lived experiences, we need to be able to relate to the circumstances they are talking about in terms of being victims of crime.
"That, therefore, means this plan is essential, that's the word that I use. Other people will use other words but this is work we are going to be progressing regardless of how it's described by other people."
Det Ch Con Kearton added that there was room to develop better relationships, particularly with younger people in black communities.
She said: "We have some fantastic relationships with all representatives of all communities across Suffolk.
"We try very hard and we develop those relationships through a whole network of community engagement officers, through established partnerships with key stakeholders, and we're working very closely with advisors who provide us with independent scrutiny in a lot of areas of our work. The independent scrutiny panel we have for stop search is just one of many examples.
"I do believe that we can still develop those relationships further. I am not complacent whatsoever.
"Just because we have existing relationships, it does not mean there's not space for those to be strengthened. I'd like to see us develop better relationships with the younger generations, particularly in black communities, but across the board there are always opportunities for us to do more of that in Suffolk."
Darren Harris, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, the staff association representing rank and file officers, said: "The Police Race Action Plan has been long-awaited and we welcome it’s publication.
"We have strong links with Suffolk Ethnic Police Association (SEPA) and will work with them and the constabulary to help deliver this action plan.
"The action plan is a significant step forward due to the accountability it places on constabularies, through the independent scrutiny and oversight board, to ensure implementation."
Tim Passmore, Suffolk police and crime commissioner, said: “Ever since I was elected nearly ten years ago there has been a very clear direction to the force in our Police and Crime Plan to make sure officers and staff are recruited from all backgrounds so the force represents the communities it serves. I trust this document fully recognises the achievements and work delivered so far.
“The key to keeping communities on board is proactive engagement, which is an important part of my role, and I hold the constabulary to account on behalf of the public over such issues every other month at the public accountability and performance panel meeting.
“Much progress has been made, but there is always room for improvement in representing and looking after all communities regardless of ethnicity, faith or cultural backgrounds.
“Suffolk is a united county which I am proud to represent. Working together and being respectful is fundamental to making Suffolk a safer place in which to live and work in for everyone.”