Beds police chief on race action plan: 'This is a watershed moment for us all to make the historic changes we need'

Bedfordshire Police’s Chief Constable has welcomed a “watershed moment” for British policing with the publication of a landmark plan around race and inclusion.

By Lynn Hughes
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 5:21 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 5:31 pm
Beds Police chief Garry Forsyth
Beds Police chief Garry Forsyth

Garry Forsyth, the national policing lead on race, religion and belief, has been instrumental in developing the national plan of action for policing to build trust and confidence with Black communities which outlines a series of proposals for all forces to become anti-racist organisations and better understand Black communities.

The initial plan has been launched alongside a national survey to get the public’s view and help shape the final version of the plan.

Mr Forsyth said: “Policing has a difficult history in its relationship with Black communities.

“Despite some progress, change has not been fast or gone far enough in terms of trust and confidence between the police and Black communities.

“Confidence levels in policing are lowest among Black communities, and powers such as use of force and stop and search are disproportionately applied to Black communities.

“While we are among the top performing forces nationally, with a diverse workforce and low levels of disproportionality in areas like stop and search, these problems still exist here in Bedfordshire. I want us to do more to address them.

“This is a watershed moment for us all to make the historic changes we need, and I would encourage our Black communities in Bedfordshire in particular to help us make that change.”

The aim is to give police officers the tools they need to build trust and confidence with Black communities, so that they are better equipped to challenge racism and identify and address any engrained cultural biases.

It seeks to create an anti-racist culture, mindset, values, and behaviours within policing, which will inform all operational policing practice, improving the experience and outcomes for Black people.

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye said: “The poor experience and disproportionality that affects Black people is found across the spectrum of interactions with the police, including stop and search, use of force, victim care, and court sentencing.

“Within policing, Black people’s experiences of recruitment, retention, promotion and conduct issues are more negative than for their white colleagues.

“Sespite the Macpherson report of nearly three decades ago, not nearly enough has been done by those in police leadership nationally or locally to improve these very longstanding issues.

“I am pleased that having acknowledged and accepted that these longstanding issues still exist, police leadership is facing up to the need to ensure that we need to do more to build trust and confidence within our Black communities, and to reduce the disproportionality that continues to exist.

“Bedfordshire Police has the lowest disproportionality rate for stop and search in England and Wales; an achievement recently recognised by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate, and is just part of the progress we have made here in Bedfordshire.”

Superintendent Mo Aziz, co-chair of Bedfordshire Police’s Diversity Support Group, said: “Bedfordshire Police is still not fully representative of the communities we serve, while too many of our Black and Asian colleagues struggle to get the right opportunities to progress their career.

“So the significant focus on race and inclusion is hugely welcome and we will work with whoever we can to make the improvements we need to see.”