Number of black and Asian police officers ‘woeful’

POLICE Scotland has been called on to do more to recruit black and Asian officers after figures showed just 1 per cent of the force is from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Figures showed there were 175 black, Asian or minority officers in the Police Scotland force of more than 17,000.  Picture: Jane Barlow
Figures showed there were 175 black, Asian or minority officers in the Police Scotland force of more than 17,000. Picture: Jane Barlow

Figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats using Freedom of Information legislation showed there are 175 officers who identify as black, Asian or minority ethnic (Bame) in the force of more than 17,000.

The Lib Dems described the figures as “appalling” and said it was time for immediate action to be taken to make the force more representative of the population at large.

Around 4 per cent of the population is from a minority ethnic group, although the figure is considerably higher in Scotland’s cities, rising to 12 per cent in Glasgow.

According to the Lib Dem figures, there are no Bame officers in the force’s top ranks and only one superintendent and one chief inspector among 446 of the most senior officers.

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Figures showed that there are no Bame staff in the top five grades, and only 69 out of 5,963 staff overall.

Lib Dem justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said: “These are appalling figures which are in no way reflective of the diverse nature of Scotland’s population.

“Only 1 per cent of all officers are from Bame backgrounds. It is the same for police staff. There are only two Bame officers across the top four ranks held by the 446 most senior officers in Scotland.

“This is a travesty which warrants immediate action from Police Scotland and the Scottish Government.”

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She added: “Scottish Liberal Democrats urge both Police Scotland and the Scottish Government to set out how they propose to address the woeful representation of communities in our police force.”

A recent submission to the Scottish Parliament’s equal opportunities committee from the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), a staff association representing 99 per cent of police officers, said Police Scotland was merely paying “lip service” to the issue of ethnic minority recruitment.

The warning to the committee came as Labour MSPs stepped up demands for Chief Constable Sir Stephen House to quit amid claims he has lost the confidence of the public.

The SPF said black and Asian officers had received “better and more extensive” support under the country’s eight legacy forces which were merged to form Police Scotland in 2013, and it said the force often undermined its good work with incidents “verging on the ridiculous”.

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It cited concerns amongst Asian officers about a new proposal to enforce the use of beard nets as well as a ban on face tattoos which precludes Hindi women who have the bindi dot on their forehead from joining the force.

The organisation also highlighted the experience of Muslim officers during last year’s Commonwealth Games, which took place during Ramadan.

It complained officers observing the fast were deployed away from the Games village, where feeding and prayer facilities were more readily available.

Sir Stephen has said he wants the force to be “reflective of the diverse nature of our communities” and has tried to recruit more minority officers. But in a submission to the committee, which is probing race and employment in the force, the SPF said: “This improvement has been slow and the service often undermines its good work.”

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Opposition MSPs described the submission as “worrying”.
Tabling a recent Holyrood motion calling for Sir Stephen to quit, Labour justice spokesman Hugh Henry said: “Revelations of recent days appear to confirm that the tragedy on the M9 wasn’t an isolated incident and was the result of a number of failures since the creation of Police Scotland.

“Sir Stephen House should resign with immediate effect. Only when the chief constable moves on can the Scottish Government fully investigate the failings in Police Scotland and get a grip on policing across our country.”

Police Scotland is under pressure over the deaths of John Yuill and Lamara Bell. Ms Bell died in hospital after being left in a crashed car off the M9 near Stirling for three days despite the accident being reported.

Responding to the Lib Dems’ figures, Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson said: “Policing in Scotland has a strong relationship with all our communities, including Bame communities, and we want to build on that even further.

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“We absolutely recognise the need to reflect the communities we serve and that recruits from Bame communities have a valuable role to play in helping to keep people safe.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Police Scotland have confirmed that they are actively trying to attract black, Asian and ethnic minority candidates to join Police Scotland as part of their ongoing recruitment campaign.”