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BTP: fast tracking diversity

Last year the British Transport Police began making strides to be a force that reflects the public it serves - not an easy task given that it covers the whole of the country.

BTP: fast tracking diversity

Date - 15th January 2021
By - Chloe Livadeas
12 Comments 12 Comments}

BTP is unique in that its community is entirely transient and the force  cannot measure its workforce against local demographics..

The 2011 Census estimates the UK's BAME population at 14 per cent, although the force said they were aware this was likely to have increased significantly and this presented a “conundrum”. The overall BAME workforce in BTP in 2020 was 13.8 per cent.

The BTP's latest diversity audit shows that BAME employees were over-represented within police staff and Police and Community Support Officers (PCSOs), with police staff at 23 per cent and PCSOs at 19 per cent, followed by Specials at 11 per cent.  The lowest representation is within the regular ranks at 9 per cent.

Chief Superintendent Dennis Murray is the force's lead for Trust, Legitimacy and Community policing - a newly created role that he took up in November. He is working with Barry Boffy, Head of Inclusion and Diversity, on the new policy Moving the Needle - a four year race action plan to improve the force’s attraction retention and progression of BAME employees.

The action plan is public facing, deals with internal and external issues, and was in part triggered by last year’s Black Lives Matter movement.

It will set out all BTP’s short, medium and long-term goals of diversifying its workforce and strengthening community trust and will produce a yearly report on progress made.

This includes building governance and accountability structures for the force's use of powers, work around development and progression internally for minority officers and then how to take that learning and expand it to female representation.

Mr Boffy said: "We want all of our officers to feel included and recognised for the individual values and knowledge that they bring to the organisation; some of which will be their own cultural heritage, identity or understanding of a particular community. After all, it's at the core of the policing by consent model that we're so proud of in the United Kingdom.”

He stresses that “none of this activity is designed to remove equality of opportunity for anyone else; no matter what their identity or background is”.

Understanding how to engage with all groups within the community you serve is a difficult commitment considering BTP's community changes everyday.

Mr Boffy said: “The interesting thing for us as a police force that doesn't have a resident population is that means we don't have a community to measure against. Our community is entirely transient and it's not consistent. And so from day to day, the community will vary. And also, if we're talking about being representative of our community, then we should also include all of those individuals who are not resident of the UK who use the railway network.

“And you can see where we then come into real problems about how we measure ourselves really quickly or accurately when we talk about being representative of our communities.

“It's definitely something that we can’t take our eye off. It really does involve us having to constantly reinvent what we're doing and how we're doing it,” Mr Boffy said.

Barry Boffy, BTP's head of Inclusion and Diversity

One part of C/Supt Murray's job is community engagement. He said good minority representation and public trust are “intrinsically linked”.

He says the force makes use of independent advisory groups and scrutiny panels around use of powers.

“The biggest thing that I took out of some of the work I've done with the community so far is BAME communities are called hard to reach by some people. But they'll say ‘we're not hard to reach, you're just trying to reach us in a way that suits you whereas actually, we're here, you just need to come and engage with us in a way that works for us as well’”.

“I come from an Asian culture. My mum told me if I joined the police, she would disown me.

“What it took was me to turn around say that I'm going to join anyway, because actually, the way to change this is to be on the inside and influence policy.”

C/Supt Murray has 29 years’ experience in policing within Northamptonshire Police. He was previously the lead for Northamptonshire’s Black Police Association and the use of powers lead. He also used to act as an advisor to the chief on issues such as Black Lives Matter.

He said by analysing data and building in an accountability and governance structure, Northamptonshire was able to cause a reduction within 12 months of disproportionality from 10 times more likely to be stopped and searched if you were a member of the BAME community to 2.1.

Chief Superintendent Dennis Murray lead for Trust, Legitimacy and Community policing

C/Supt Murray is currently rewriting BTP's approach to how they use their powers, what the governance and accountability looks like, and how they are going to measure it.

On getting BAME officers higher up the ladder in the organisation he said officers may not put themselves forward for progression when they could, or they put themselves forward and are unsuccessful which  knocks their confidence.

In terms of retention of BAME employees, Mr Boffy said there was no disproportionality when it comes to individuals leaving the force.

But if someone is thinking about leaving senior management will speak to them to see if there’s an issue and ask if there’s anything they can do to help.

C/Supt Murray’s team is also looking at assaults on officers and staff, and asking the question if anything more needs to be done around hate crimes against them.

How much of a challenge is breaking the recruitment mould for the force particualrly among the regular ranks? Nigel Goodband, chair of the BTP Federation, said one obstacle is a lot of the younger generation don't see policing as a vocation.

He said because of the amount of bad publicity, particularly through social media, as well the low starting salary, policing is not an attractive occupation to a lot of people regardless of their ethnic background.

“So when you then wish to target certain minority groups, to encourage them to join an occupation that doesn't particularly look good on the TV screen, it's a difficult task as it is," he says. "Then you've got that element, particularly within the BAME community, of having that lack of confidence.

“And I think that's something that is a bit of a stumbling block, if I'm honest,” he said.

But this doesn't resonate with C/Supt Murray. “In fact, I'm at the stage at the moment where I wish I had more intakes because I can get more people in and change it sooner,” he said. 

C/Supt Murray has set up is a diversity and inclusion forum of all the police forces in England and Wales, which he chairs. It’s made up of leaders from each force area who are in the same role as him so that good practice and learning can be shared.

So far 27 out of 43 forces meet monthly to talk about the work.

“There's no point reinventing the wheel,” said C/Supt Murray. “We've got our own force agendas but actually policing UK wants to see the forces be more diverse and more representative. So we're more than happy to share that learning between us.”

Mr Goodband said there was also work to do on inclusion as a staff association.

“I have to put my hand up and admit that we are not a true representative body of the workforce. And we need to diversify. But it's one problem getting people into policing, it's another getting them to become representatives in the Federation, because, sadly, a federation representative is (wrongly) deemed to be a task where it could block your career opportunities.”

In what could be seen as a turning point for the force, the top job will be taken over next month by Lucy D'Orsi, currently Deputy Assistant Commissioner with the Metropolitan Police.

“I think it's about time we had a woman within our chief officer group, something that we haven't experienced in BTP. And it's long overdue," said Mr Goodband.

And it's not just her gender that means the force is looking forward to working under her leadership. Mr Goodband said: "I think what was really positive for BTP is that in previous years, we've always attracted retired ex chief constables or chief officers."

The fact that DAC D'Orsi was a serving officer in the Met before she was appointed "speaks volumes" he argues because it proved senior officers from outside forces were willing to lead the BTP. 

“She leads on a lot of items that will assist BTP especially around counterterrorism, tasers, firearms, things like that. I think the knowledge and experience there will assist us massively,” he adds.

BTP was the first force to have a woman officer 103 years ago. Margaret Wood, was employed by the great Eastern Railway at Liverpool Street Station in London. Unlike the Women's Voluntary Service, these women were employed as police officers and were sworn in as constables in May 1917.

Since then change has definitely accelerated. “Having been around for three decades now in policing, the fact that my role exists and exists across 43 forces in the UK is a massive leap forward,” said C/Supt. Murray.

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Simon - Thu, 04 February 2021

Recruiting from the community should, by definition cover diversity, whatever happened to good old merit?