Tue, 03 Nov 2020
Paul Odle, Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales’ Black Asian Minority Ethnic and BAME Belief Group, shines a light on how it is breaking down barriers.
This year the rights of black people have been focused on in the news in a way not seen in decades. The Black Lives Matter campaign has opened the eyes of many people of different races and cultures across the world following the death of George Floyd, and the many unnecessary deaths of black people across the US has made us reflect and review our own style of policing within the minority communities.
Equality has always been at the forefront of our minds here at the Federation and we are fully committed to the eradication of all forms of discrimination, but I felt like now is an important period to highlight what we are doing behind the scenes to bring about positive change for the greater good of our BAME members and the communities they serve.
We established the Black Asian Minority Ethnic and BAME Belief Group with the aim of creating a culturally aware and welcoming environment throughout the police service and at the Federation - tackling any barriers that exist so BAME groups can flourish. Through our life and career experience we are in a strong position to influence, negotiate and persuade key decision makers by speaking out on issues that affect Black Asian Minority Ethnic and BAME Belief officers and communities.
One of the biggest issues facing the service at the moment which we are pressing for change on is the lack of diversity and career progression. In fact, only 7.5 per cent of police officers are from a BAME background, compared to 14 per cent of the population as a whole. Britain has also only had one black chief constable, Michael Fuller QPM, and he left the force 10 years ago; not to mention only five BAME officers were promoted in the last year to the rank of Chief Superintendent.
We have also been taking a long hard look at the larger picture behind recruitment issues which stem back to public confidence in the service within BAME communities. This is why we are providing vital feedback into research lead by the National Police Chiefs’ Council around issues including ‘Stop & Search’ in a bid to make the police service an attractive and welcoming environment.
However, change is happening and the situation is certainly a lot better than when I started out as a Coordinator for the Black Police Association 26 years ago. The proportion of black, Asian and ethnic minority officers and staff is at the highest ever level – but we still have a long way to go.
We not only need a more diverse workforce – but we need more BAME Fed reps who can be their cultural self within the organisation. It only takes a quick glance at the group photo from last year’s PFEW Centenary event to realise the Federation needs to be much more diverse and culturally aware. When we get the balance right, we can better represent BAME colleagues through experience and understanding.
We have started working towards the 2021 Federation elections to encourage an increase in the number of BAME and BAME belief Fed reps and have set up a mentoring scheme which supports officers who wish to become one by buddying them up with another representative who will guide them through the process.
I became a Fed rep in 2018 to help colleagues and to help PFEW to better reflect the diversity of the police force. I’ve been able to bring my experience and perspective to the table and I would recommend becoming a rep any day of the week. Not only do you support your colleagues - it’s also an investment in developing further skills and greater knowledge. I haven’t looked back since and have found the experience to be thoroughly rewarding.
It's my hope the Black Asian Minority Ethnic and BAME Belief Group will become the voice of BAME members so we better understand the communities that we serve and that all our reps will play their part for a more diverse and inclusive Federation.
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