GMP response to racism report ‘disappointing’ says watchdog

On 2nd August, 2021, Amanda Rowe, Regional Director for the Independent Office of Police Conduct, said that Greater Manchester Police’s recent report looking at issues of race equality provides some promising progress on policing and race, but also raises uncomfortable questions that all police forces need to be answering (read full report here).

It was a wishy-washy response to lurid headlines across the national media that shouted load over the past week or so about the institutional racism within GMP, of which campaigners such as Paul Bailey, a former Chair of the National Black Police Association, have complained over many years.

The new chief constable, Stephen Watson, who doesn’t believe in police corruption either, denies that GMP is a racist force.

In an effort to improve leadership, direction and accountability, the Chief Constable says he will chair a new Diversity and Equality Board, ensuring, he claims, that leadership and accountability go hand-in-hand, and the Board will consider the extent of disproportionality in relation to a range of measures and issues. 

A People Board is also being established at executive level to bring staffing, recruitment, retention, progression and representation to the fore. GMP wants to be better reflective of the broad diversity of communities in Greater Manchester, and this will lead to improved trust and confidence, as well as improved operational capability says CC Watson.

In November 2020, the GM Race Equality Panel was established by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham. It is focused on providing senior level challenge to current structural inequalities that exist and, as a result, impede different Greater Manchester communities. This group, says the Mayor and chief constable, has been instrumental in developing and implementing an action plan for change, and GMP will continue to work with partners in education, schools, health and social care, transport and other areas to make a real and lasting difference across Greater Manchester.

They are ambitious claims and Burnham’s (and Ian Hopkin’s) previous attempts at ‘solution by talking shop’ have flopped dismally and seen GMP fall into Home Office imposed ‘Special Measures’ as a result of its grotesque failings in recording, investigating and detecting crime. 

This is the IOPC, and Ms Rowe’s, take on the issue:

“Community groups and stakeholders consistently raise concerns with us about discrimination  and disproportionality. We also see these issues in the investigations we carry out at the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

“The conversation around discrimination is one that needs to be had if we are to see any meaningful improvement.

“The Achieving Race Equality report shows that Black people were 5.3 times more likely than white people to have had a Taser used against them by GMP. The fact this is less than the national average of 9 times is missing the point that disproportionality still exists and the community deserve a clear and transparent answer from police on why this is. 

“This is not just a Greater Manchester Police problem. Every negative interaction someone has with the police, erodes their confidence that the police will protect and serve them. 

“Police need to work hard to restore and maintain this confidence. As long as certain communities are more likely to be stopped and searched, or subjected to the use of force, that will not happen – and ultimately that will undermine the legitimacy of policing.

“We have issued national and force level recommendations, calling upon forces to tackle this problem in order to improve policing and confidence. Last year for example, we made 11 recommendations to the Metropolitan Police Service following a series of investigations involving the stop and search of Black men. 

“I was particularly interested to note the report’s findings relating to evidence of bias, such as officers being more likely to refer to size and strength when justifying their use of force against a Black person. This is something we have seen in our own work.

“Frequent or exaggerated references to perceived size and strength can align to commonly held stereotypes and seeing a person in such a way can increase the likelihood of force and restraint being used. It is vital that officers are aware of this.

“Discrimination in all its forms is not a problem that can be fixed overnight or by any single organisation – but without decisive action from the police it is not an issue that is going to go away. 

“We will continue to push for the improvements that are so badly needed. Our ongoing race discrimination work examines recent cases to look for trends and patterns, as well as directly engaging with what our communities are telling us. We are working with all forces, academics, scrutiny groups and those with lived experience. We will be publishing an interim report on our progress with the review this summer. 

“Some of the response to the findings in GMP’s report was disappointing. First and foremost, tackling racism requires police forces to take decisive action to address discrimination. Someone being five times more likely to be stopped and searched, rather than the national average of nine, is still not good enough.

“This report provides welcome transparency and outlines actions on what is being done to drive change.  We recognise the work that forces are doing but policing still has a long way to go. Acknowledging there is a problem is an important first step”.

Not one senior officer is currently facing any misconduct investigation by the IOPC as a result of either the failings that led the force into Special Measures or as a result of the racism findings.

Many opportunities have been missed by the watchdog to put right the very many wrongs in Greater Manchester Police. Most notably, during one of the largest ever investigations in their history. Codenamed Operation Poppy, it whitewashed the protected disclosures of well known police whistleblower, Peter Jackson.

Page last updated at 1415hrs on Tuesday 3rd August, 2021

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

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Photo credit: Greater Manchester Police

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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