BAME and #BLACKLIVESMATTER

The problems with race in UK policing: Part 1

15 July 2020

As a firm, we have had many discussions about Black Lives Matter and how we can make a difference to the movement. In the fourth blog in our series, Tom looks at whether the police is still institutionally racist.

 

Who killed George Floyd?

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.

Are the police still institutionally racist?

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.

This is a two part blog and please click here to read the second part.

our black lives matter / BAME series

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.

 

About the author

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.

 

Latest blogs & news

Banning conversion therapy: how the UK Government proposals fall short and risk criminalising gender identity counselling services

The UK Government proposals to ban conversion therapy fall short and risk criminalising gender identity counselling services. 

On 29 October 2021 the Government launched a consultation on restricting conversion therapy. Although the Government proposals are a step in the right direction, it only limits conversion therapy rather than banning it outright.

Progress on our pledge to increase diversity and inclusion within Kingsley Napley

When I became Senior Partner of Kingsley Napley in 2018, I made a very clear pledge to the firm – that I would make it one of my key objectives to increase diverse talent and foster a culture of inclusivity.

Black History Month – I don’t have a story as it was normal

Marcia Longdon was recently asked about her journey into law and whether she had a story to share. Marcia initially thought that she didn't have a story. However, as the interview unfolded, the interviewer looked over the camera and said, er, are you sure? So here it is.

How can I celebrate BHM if I’m not Black?

A question that emerges for Black people all over Britain every October is “How can I celebrate the stories of those that have come before me?” In contrast the question that naturally comes to mind for those who are not of Black origin is “If I’m not Black how do I participate in Black History?” Whilst the questions appear to be different there is a common theme – both query how people can do Black History month justice, both have a desire to adequately celebrate a rich history that means so much to so many. But rest assured you should feel comfortable and welcome to celebrate the history of another culture.

Black History Month – why do I care?

Celebrating this year’s Black History Month (BHM) with is powerful campaign, “Proud to Be”, is an apt time for us all to consider why we (should) care about Black history and culture.

Black History Month - The Power of Diverse Storytelling

When Black History Month was established in the United States, over a century ago, it was intended as a way to celebrate and give national recognition to black stories and perspectives.

At Kingsley Napley, we believe in the power of diverse and representative stories and we have found some wonderful and effective ways to share them that you might like to try too.

Celebrating Bisexuality Visibility Day!

The visibility of the “B” in our LGBTQ+ umbrella is marked every year on 23 September. At Kingsley Napley, we are proud to have bisexual members of our LGBTQ+ and Allies Network and strive for everyone to feel like they can be themselves and bring their whole selves to work. Outside KN, and in this year alone, Robin has come out as bisexual in the new Batman comic, more awareness has been raised about bisexuality with celebrities, such as Megan Fox, Lily Cole, speaking out and there is more representation of bisexual people in mainstream shows, such as Sex Education, Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

World Suicide Prevention Day

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.

The National Disability Strategy: the most comprehensive, concerted, cross-government plan ever. Is it really?

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?

Kingsley Napley wishes our Muslim Community Eid Mubarak as Eid al-Adha is celebrated around the world.

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.

Drag queens and activism: a story of political realness

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? How to support your friends and family members when they come out to you.

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.

When the arch of the rainbow actually casts a shadow on you.

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.

The Conversations That We’re Forgetting to Have

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.

Three years on, the UK Government is still ‘’dragging its feet’’ about banning gay conversion therapy.

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.

"They will say I’m pushing an agenda. But the truth is, I am.” - The rise of queer artists and the importance of visibility

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’.

Visibility, Unity and Equality: out and proud in the legal sector

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.

Things not to say to same-sex parents

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.

Our diversity journey and where we want to REACH

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.

Positive representation in law

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.

R.E.A.C.H. & Allies bulletin board

R.E.A.C.H. & Allies bulletin board

What is Hair Discrimination ? – Kingsley Napley joins the Halo Code

In this REACH podcast hosted by Shannett Thompson Partner in Regulatory, Shannett discusses joining the Halo code, the topic of hair discrimination and what hair discrimination means to them with Kingsley Napley employees from across the firm

Listen to the podcast

Shannett Thompson and Donna Cummings delve into issues around BAME recruitment

In this episode, Shannett Thompson and Donna Cummings delve into issues around BAME recruitment.

Listen to the podcast

Positive representation in the tech industry with Ash Cooper

In this podcast episode of KN BAME Talks for Black History Month 2020, Ash Cooper, IT Director at Kingsley Napley, talks about positive representation and his career in the tech industry.

Listen to the podcast

Shannett Thompson speaks at Urban Lawyers Careers Conf​erence November 2019​

Urban Lawyers works to makes the law more accessible as a career to marginalised groups and improve social mobility and diversity in the legal profession.​

View Urban Lawyers CC 2019 site

Film screening of The Hard Stop

Attended by KN employees and the Stop and Search Legal Project.

View SSLP's site

Intersecti​onality P​​er-spective - Celebrating Black History Month

Kingsley Napley's BAME and LGBTQ & Allies networks hosted a series of talks at London's Arboretum on 16 October 2019. The focus of the event was to open up the conversation about intersectionality, whilst shining a light on the progress of Black History Month in Britain. The speakers were Charles Irvine, Anthony Francis, Debo Nwauzu and Dr S Chelvan.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY 2020: BAME heroines who exemplify #EachforEqual

Drawing from the strength of shared experiences, women around the world have been uniting in common struggles such as sexual and domestic violence, pay inequality, reproductive autonomy and climate change. While great leaps forward have been made and women-led movements have been gaining unprecedented attention and support , minority ethnic women are often left behind as these struggles are compounded with the intersection of their race/ethnicity and gender.

View blog post

BAME webinar: Challenges faced at work

Recorded Monday 3 December 2018.

View webinar

Holocaust Memorial Day 2020: “Stand Together”

Holocaust Memorial Day, on 27 January 2020, will mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, where more than a million people perished in gas chambers, most of them Jews. The day is internationally marked in remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust and other appalling acts of genocide, including later atrocities in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, and to recognise that the lessons of the Holocaust are still relevant, especially at a time when racism and extremism is on the rise across Europe.

View blog post

BAME book club: The Good Immigrant

Our most recent book is by Nikesh Shukla.

Kingsley Napley Diversity and Inclusion Statistics 2019

Download report

Improving diversity at the top

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recently launched a consultation on proposed amendments to its Listing Rules aimed at improving diversity and inclusion on company boards and executive committees. In particular, they are seeking feedback on proposals to require listed companies to publicly disclose annually whether they meet specific board diversity targets, including in relation to ethnicity, and to publish the composition of their boards and most senior level of executive management. To understand why such proposals are necessary, it is important to consider the current state of ethnic minority representation in UK leadership, why diversity at senior levels is so vitally important and what steps can employers take to improve diversity.

View blog post

Share insightLinkedIn Twitter Facebook Email to a friend Print

Email this page to a friend

We welcome views and opinions about the issues raised in this blog. Should you require specific advice in relation to personal circumstances, please use the form on the contact page.

Leave a comment

You may also be interested in:

Skip to content Home About Us Insights Services Contact Accessibility