Stop and Search: can we continue to justify the use of this police power?
The killing of George Floyd on 25 May 2020 by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, has been rightly met with widespread anger and condemnation. People have taken to the streets for rallies in support of the Black Lives Matter (‘BLM’) movement in the USA, the UK and around the world. Demonstrating exactly why people of Black heritage are entirely justified in feeling unsafe in the UK today, is the fact that Parliament’s first response to the BLM protests was to draft a bill that protects its statues, not its citizens.
I am a former police officer, having served in a Safer Neighbourhoods Team in the Met Police for just over two years. I want to speak up about my views on the racial bias and discrimination in the police and the lack of diversity amongst police officers, and I include my former self in that.
The narrative of race relations has shifted. It is no longer enough simply not to be racist. Preaching diversity and inclusion means I have a responsibility to become actively anti-racist, to engage with issues of inequality and take action to redress the balance. Right now, it means I must not be silent if I am to stand in solidarity with friends, colleagues, and communities.
In my experience, the racial bias and discrimination that persist within policing harms Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (‘BAME’) communities and makes the police less effective. One contributing factor to this status quo is the lack of diversity amongst police officers. This is not a new problem, but the cost of our failure to address it is being counted in lives.
Plainly, racial bias and discrimination exist in the police – there is an over-policing of BAME communities, especially Black communities, and BAME communities are under-represented in the police workforce.
According to the most recent government data, between April 2018 and March 2019, Black people in England were stopped-and-searched at a rate four times higher than White people. Black people are also more likely to be subjected to use of force by police, such as being restrained or tasered. Across the UK, Black men have tasers drawn on them at a rate eight times higher than White men. Black people do not commit more crime than White people. Black people are not more violent than White people. Black people are pursued more than White people by the police, so the fraction of offending and violent behaviour that the police detect is committed disproportionately by Black people.
After the MacPherson report (an enquiry into the Met Police’s handling of the investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence) was published in 1999, the then-Labour government set targets for every police force in the UK to have the same proportion of BAME officers in their ranks as the communities they served. They were given a decade, and missed the target. Twenty-one years later, we are still nowhere near.
Now consider that in 1999, BAME communities made up only 7% of the UK population. At the last census (2011), they made up 14% of the population. In March 2019, 6.9% of the UK’s police force and 4% of senior officers identified as being of BAME heritage. Not a single chief constable in the UK is of BAME heritage. To achieve the government’s target set in 1999, the rate at which BAME officers are joining the police needs to accelerate past the rate at which BAME communities are growing, in order for the gap between the two to close.
In 2018, as part of its ‘Bias in Britain’ series, The Guardian commissioned Dr Krisztian Posch at the London School of Economics to predict when ethnicity demographics in policing would mirror those in society. His answer - the year 2077. In 2019, Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said she believed the Met would be disproportionately White for another one hundred years at the current rate of progress.
Serving BAME officers face a challenging working environment. The police watchdog, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, reported in 2019 that a culture of favouritism means police forces have failed to recruit talented people into top jobs and have over-promoted senior officers. Two of the most senior Black officers to have ever served in British policing – Patricia Gallan and Victor Olisa – announced in June 2020 that they had experienced overt and subtle racism from colleagues throughout their service, which blighted their career progression. In December 2017, Steve White (yes, really) stepped down as the chair of the Police Federation and went on record saying that career progression for BAME officers was being repeatedly blocked by members of the Freemasons. As a result of both internal and external bias and discrimination, the police remain ‘pale, male and stale’, to use a phrase well-known amongst officers.
The evidence is beyond reasonable doubt. BAME communities are under-represented within the police and over-represented in their frequency of interactions with the police.
As a firm, we have had many discussions about Black Lives Matter and how we can make a difference to the movement. We wanted to do more than just put out a statement of support, we wanted to take substantive action to address the inequalities faced by Black people and other ethnic minorities. Over the coming weeks, we will be publishing a series of blogs from our varying practice areas highlighting what we are doing, how you can make a difference and shining a light on the issues.
Our Diversity and Inclusion group is working hard with Human Resources and the Management Team to effect change through methods such as training and reviewing recruitment practices. We have implemented a lot of change but we recognise we have more to do and we are always looking to make improvements as a firm. We all have respective roles to play in advocating for issues of inequality and we hope our blogs give you some inspiration as to how you can make a change.
Tom Surr is the Head Paralegal in the Criminal Litigation Department of Kingsley Napley. He is a former police officer, having served in the Met Police for just over two years as the Dedicated Ward Officer for the ward of Kilburn in North-West London.
He left the police to pursue a career in law, working briefly in the Crown Prosecution Service’s Extradition Unit as a paralegal before joining Kingsley Napley. He is passionate about police reform and improving society’s understanding of policing and police officers.
To mark Suicide Prevention Day and raise awareness of the prevalence of deaths by suicide in the UK, Kingsley Napley is set to host a mental health panel discussion on 10 September 2021.
On the 28 July 2021, the Government unveiled the highly anticipated National Disability Strategy (‘the strategy’). Pledged in the Government’s 2019 manifesto, the aim is to “improve the everyday lives of disabled people”. The Prime Minister described the strategy as the most comprehensive, concerted, cross-government plan relating to disability ever. A bold claim, but is it justified?
Whilst our Muslim colleagues and friends celebrate over communal meals and prayer, it is also a time for us at Kingsley Napley to reflect on the importance of observing and respecting the cultural and religious differences of others. We are motivated to make Kingsley Napley a place which is not only diverse, but also inclusive, where all our people feel able to bring their true selves to work.
When I told some of my friends I was writing a piece about drag activism, their reaction was almost unanimous…
"Oh, but, is there much to say?"
That's when I realised that drag queens, for many, are more synonymous with big hair and lip-syncing pop hits rather than political consciousness and activism. You can certainly understand the reason for this - we have been totally spoiled in recent years with the explosion of Ru Paul’s Drag Race around the world - the make-up, talents and confidence being a feast for the eyes (and the soul). But we cannot minimise the political importance of Mama Ru’s creation. Who could forget numbers such as “Shady Politics”; the discussions of gay conversion therapy while applying make-up; and Bob the Drag Queen describing his arrest during a 2011 marriage equality protest? Not to mention Nancy Pelosi sashaying into the All Stars season…
Coming out is an extremely personal journey and will be unique to each person. It takes a lot of courage to come out and a person may have to repeatedly do this in their personal and professional lives. Statistics show that 46% of people who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual and 47% of people who identify as trans feel comfortable to discuss their orientation or gender identity.
How can you put the spotlight on intersectionality to remind others that, even within the LGBTQ+ community, not everyone is treated equal?
Are you proud of who you are, your journey and the person that you’ve become? Do you truly wear your heart on your sleeve? For some, being open and honest about who we are (which includes our gender identity or sexuality) does not come easily and can be extremely hard. It can be even tougher at work, and for those that hide their true self, the energy expenditure is endless. That survival cost of energy makes you less productive, or even worse still, it has a detrimental impact on your mental and physical health.
I am a trans woman who has recently embarked on her transition. Having only taken my first steps on this journey, I am acutely aware when writing this that I have much to learn about myself, about being trans, and about the diverse LGBTQ+ family that I now find myself part of. However, there is one theme that I feel is important to discuss as we celebrate Pride in 2021.
Following on from my colleague Sameena Munir’s blog ‘’pray the gay away: cull conversion therapy worldwide’’, the issue of gay conversion therapy dominates contemporary conversations surrounding LGBT politics and legislation in the UK, but the Government has failed to deliver on its promise to ban it.
For two weeks during Pride month, Kingsley Napley are publishing a series of blogs to celebrate Pride and highlight LGBTQ+ issues from home and abroad.
It’s been 9 years since R&B artist Frank Ocean headed off rumours about his particular pronoun usage in the album Channel Orange by posting on Tumblr that his first love had been a man. Since then, the momentum for the openness and success of queer artists has continued to gather pace, and LGBTQ+ representation in the arts and mainstream media is as wide as it has ever been. This rise has however raised important questions about pigeonholing queer artists, and perhaps most interestingly whether they must always shoulder the responsibility of ‘pushing the agenda’.
In February this year, I attended a virtual talk held by the InterLaw Diversity Forum for LGBT+ History Month. The speakers featured individuals working in the legal sector and each discussed their experience of coming out as trans or non-binary at work. It feels an apt lesson given this year’s Pride theme: Visibility, Unity and Equality.
In January 2020, I was fortunate enough to give birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. As far as I know, I am the first partner at Kingsley Napley (although certainly not the first employee) who has a baby who is lucky enough to have two mums. News of my pregnancy was met with overwhelming support from my colleagues. That support continues to this very day, and my wife and I remain truly grateful for the kindness that has been shown to us. However, since falling pregnant I have learnt that not all workplaces are as supportive to same-sex parents as mine. The concept of two mums or two dads starting a family is something that some people still struggle to get their heads around. So this year, for our KN Pride blog series, I have decided to explain the questions, that speaking from my own experience, it is not helpful to say to same-sex parents.
We have newly renamed our network to the Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage (REACH) group. Our REACH network is a space where we come together to work towards fostering and maintaining an inclusive workplace, where we can all reach our full potential without fear of discrimination.
Satvir Sokhi was recently invited to speak and take part in Leeds Beckett University’s Law Enrichment session which allowed a panel of ethnically diverse professionals to speak to students about our experiences with diversity and inclusion within the legal sector.
On this day each year, over 130 countries around the world seek to celebrate sexual and gender diversities and draw attention to the various forms of discrimination and violence that the LGBTQ+ community continue to experience.
There are various drivers forcing law firms to embrace a more diverse workforce and to attract, promote and retain talent from all backgrounds, regardless of gender, gender-identity, race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, age, and socio-economic class (to name but a few).
Following the tragic events of this week, I have thought back to the past two weeks and considered how my position might have been different if I was a woman. I now recognise just how incredibly ‘normal’ it has become for women to be warned against walking alone at night, which is something I have never had to consider as a man. This dichotomy between the experiences of men and women has been made clear by the reaction across traditional and social media.
Kingsley Napley continue to support International Women’s Day to help forge a more gender equal world. As a firm we pride ourselves on having a workforce made up of over 69% women, with more than 50% in the partnership. However, we know that much work still has to be done in the legal sector and beyond.
An urgent inquiry into systemic racism in the NHS and how it manifests itself in maternity care was launched yesterday. The Inquiry has been convened by Birthrights: an organisation dedicated to improving women’s experience of pregnancy and childbirth.
Today will see the start of the UK’s first Race Equality Week (an initiative “to unite organisations and individuals in activity to address issues affecting ethnic minority employees”). Whilst initiatives like this and, indeed, the UK’s first ever Ethnicity Pay Gap Day (8 January 2021) are very welcome and a cause for celebration and hope in relation to such matters, there is much work yet to be done on the issue of race equality and we cannot afford to be complacent. The ethnicity pay gap is one aspect of this that still needs to be addressed, despite the recent publicity around it and the increasing pressure on Government to take action.
According to Diversity UK, in 2018 roughly 13.8% of the UK population was from a minority ethnic background and 40% of the population in London were from the Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) background.
Skip to content Home About Us Insights Services Contact Accessibility