Home Secretary speech at NBPA conference

Theresa May speaks at the National Black Policing Association’s conference about a one nation approach to policing.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

Thank you. It gives me great pleasure to be here at the National Black Policing Association’s conference.

I have met Franstine, your president, on a number of occasions, but today I am delighted to have this opportunity to tell you why this Association is so important to my vision of policing.

And I want to begin by telling you about something which goes right to the very heart of that vision.

A few years ago a group of young men came to my office to see me. They were bright, decent young men with high hopes of getting on in life. They worked hard. They respected the law. And they had grown up doing all the things that were expected of them by their families and society.

But what they told me that day was not just shocking, but deeply depressing. Because each of those young men had a tale about how having done nothing wrong, going about their ordinary business, walking home, driving to work, they had been stopped by the police, patted down, and had their pockets turned out. And when they had asked why they were being searched, they had been given no good reason.

They had been told: “it’s just routine”. The problem was, for those young men, it really was routine. Because this hadn’t just happened to them once, twice, three times. No it was ten, twenty, thirty times.

Some of you here – before or even since you became police officers - might have had experiences like those young men. And like them, you might have wondered, deep down, if this was only happening because of your appearance. I don’t need to tell anyone here that properly conducted stop and search is an important police power – and I will always back police officers who use their powers legitimately and accountably.

But when stop and search is misapplied, and when people are stopped and searched for no good reason, it is unfair, it wastes valuable police time, and it damages the relationship between communities and the police. And, as the Prime Minister set out in his speech to Conservative Party conference last month, it is simply not right for people to be stopped and searched again and again because of the colour of their skin.

That is why I have been determined to make sure stop and search is properly targeted and intelligence-led. We made sure officers are clear what “reasonable grounds” of suspicion are, so that its use is both legal and reasonable – because Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said that over a quarter of stop and searches were unlawful. We brought in much greater transparency and required police forces to record the outcome of each and every stop and search – because only one in ten stop and searches led to an arrest. And we gave communities the ability to hold their police force to account through a “community trigger”, which means that the police must explain how stop and search powers are being used should concerns be raised. And I am delighted that the 43 police forces in England and Wales, plus British Transport Police, have all voluntarily signed up to our Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme.

I know there are those who say that our reforms have gone too far, that the pendulum has swung too much the other way, and that reforms to stop and search are linked to knife crime in our capital and elsewhere. But to them I say this: stop and search reform has worked, it must continue, and – if you look at the evidence – it shows no link whatsoever with violent crime. And as a result of our reforms, stop and search has become more targeted and more intelligence-led – but there is still a long way to go.

Arrest rates have risen, but still only one in eight results in arrest. The number of stop and search related complaints recorded by the Independent Police Complaints Commission have fallen by a fifth in the last two years, but there are still nearly 500 a year. You are no longer seven times more likely to be stopped and searched if you are black, but you remain six times more likely than if you were white. Progress yes, but still of little comfort to those who are stopped unfairly. And when you look at the evidence, when you look at places like London where stop and searches have fallen the most, you see that in fact that reduction has nothing to do with knife crime. In London, so-called blade or point stops – where officers suspect the individual is carrying a knife – accounted for less than one per cent of the reduction in stops and searches by the Metropolitan Police in the last year.

The greatest reductions in London have actually been in stop and searches related to drugs and stolen property, of which there were 77,000 fewer this year – four-fifths of the total fall in stops and searches. So it is simply not true that knife crime is rising because the police are no longer stopping and searching those carrying knives. And while any change in violent crime must be of concern to the police, it is worth noting that the Office for National Statistics has attributed much of the change to better recording, not more crime. Properly targeted, stop and search will actually help reduce knife crime. It will save police time to focus on prevention and work with gangs, and it will improve the relationship between the police and the public on which all of your work rests.

So arrest rates are rising. Police time is being saved. Trust is being rebuilt. We must not jettison all that good work for the sake of a knee-jerk reaction on the back of a false link. The message from this Government is clear: we want the police to use stop and search properly, not to stop using it altogether. Protecting the principle of policing by consent But getting stop and search right is not just important because it’s about fairness and justice. It also affects the relationship between the police and the communities they serve, and in doing so, touches upon the principle on which policing in this country rests.

Every officer in this country from the newest recruit to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police knows that in this country, we believe in policing by consent. And if we are to protect that principle, we must not only improve public trust and confidence in the police, but we must ensure that police forces properly reflect the communities they serve. Since I became Home Secretary in 2010, I have been determined to address some of the most deep rooted problems in policing, and I have put in place a programme of radical reform. I have done so, as I have said before, not to dismantle what we have, but to preserve and protect the best of British policing, and to improve the relationship between the public and the police.

So we have taken action to improve the police response to vulnerable people, and to ensure the police treat the public with respect and professionalism. I have already spoken about stop and search, where much progress has been made but more remains to be done. But there are other equally significant issues where reform is needed to bring transparency, accountability and compassion to the police response. You will have seen recent media reports about the police use of Taser on different communities. Those reports were based on incomplete and out of date information. But the truth is we don’t know if you are more likely to be Tasered if you are Black or Asian or White, nor do we know how other use of force is being used in relation to people of different ethnicities.

That is why I asked Chief Constable David Shaw to lead an in-depth review of the publication of Taser data and other use of force by police officers, to ensure that these powers are being used appropriately. This review - which David Shaw will submit shortly - will put forward options for the recording and publishing of information on how each police force is using force, who it is being used on and what the outcomes are. Because just as with stop and search, sensitive powers like Taser and the use of force must be used with transparency and proportionality. We also know that vulnerable people all too often encounter the police when others are better placed to deal with them, or when other services fail.

So I have introduced measures to ensure that vulnerable people get the help and support they need and deserve, and to reduce the amount of time the police spend picking up the pieces locally. The Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat, liaison and diversion schemes, street triage pilots, and the alternative place of safety we piloted successfully in Sussex – are already making a difference. And as I announced at the Police Federation conference, the Government will provide up to £15 million of new funding to help ensure that no person suffering a mental health crisis – who has committed no crime – is detained in a police cell for want of a suitable alternative. Fewer people detained under the Mental Health Act are now being placed in police cells when they really need a health-based place of safety. Last year, use of police cells for mental health detentions fell by a third compared to the previous year, and in some forces they were not used at all.

As I have said many times before, the right place for a person suffering a mental health crisis is a hospital bed, not a police cell. And the right people to look after them are medically trained professionals, not police officers. And as I announced to Parliament yesterday, I have appointed Dame Elish Angiolini to lead a major independent review of deaths and serious incidents in custody. Working closely with the College of Policing, Inquest and with the families of those affected, the review will examine the procedures and processes surrounding deaths and serious incidents in custody. It will identify areas for improvement and develop recommendations to ensure appropriate, humane institutional treatment when such incidents occur. And because there are longstanding concerns about police attitudes in some high profile incidents, the review will specifically look at the extent to which ethnicity was a factor in such cases.

Police reform in the last Parliament Of course these measures build on our wider reforms to policing in the last Parliament. I know these reforms have meant many big organisational changes for you. You have seen the abolition of institutions, changes to pay and conditions, and the overhauling of outdated systems and technology. And yes, budgets have fallen. But when you consider what we have done, and what we have achieved, you can see that what our reforms have amounted to is making policing more accountable, more transparent and more professional.

We devolved power and transformed local accountability thus ensuring that communities have a much greater say in policing in their area. We replaced the bureaucratic accountability of police authorities, with the democratic accountability of police and crime commissioners, and brought in beat meetings and local crime maps. We made police performance more transparent to the taxpayers and citizens that police forces serve. Information on police performance and efficiency is now more independent and robust, and, as we saw with its PEEL Efficiency reports published on Tuesday, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary pulls no punches when it comes to providing tough judgments on forces’ efficiency, legitimacy and effectiveness.

Last week saw the release of the latest crime statistics – which are now more independent and accurate since we transferred responsibility to the Office for National Statistics, and now shine more light on previously hidden and under-reported crimes than ever before. We are doing more to professionalise the police and ensure that officers know, and are held to, the high standards expected of them. We have strengthened the disciplinary system, and now disciplinary hearings are held in public and – from next year – will be overseen by a legally-qualified chairman. We have beefed up the Independent Police Complaints Commission so that it can take on all serious and sensitive cases. And we have introduced a specific offence of police corruption for the first time.

Through the Policing and Criminal Justice Bill we will go further, to increase accountability and transparency in the complaints and disciplinary systems, and ensure that cases are dealt with quickly and effectively, not just for the benefits of the public, but also for officers who have done nothing wrong. Delivering a diverse police service So we have improved accountability, increased transparency, and started to deliver efficiency, while getting to grips with tough, difficult issues that have haunted policing for too long. But the tradition of policing by consent requires more than this. It means we must ensure that police forces properly reflect the communities they serve.

And I am saying this not just because more diverse police forces mean we can make much better use of the talents and skills of people of all backgrounds and groups – including not only BME communities but also disabled officers, officers from LGBT groups and from all faiths. Nor because modern crimes require modern, diverse police forces to respond if we are to continue cutting crime. Although those things are true. But also because if police forces do not truly represent the people they serve, if they are not made up of men and women of all backgrounds, if they do not properly reflect the communities where local officers police, then we cannot truly say the police are the public, and the public are the police. The National Black Police Association was formed to give all black and ethnic minority officers a clear, single voice.

Franstine, I know the passion with which you have led this organisation – and I want to thank you, and your members, for the immensely valuable contribution you make. In the last five years, we have taken great strides together. I hope you will support me in delivering much greater progress in this Parliament. In two weeks time there will be a passing out parade for the first cohort of Police Now graduates. These graduates – who left university this summer – are not only bringing with them new experiences and perspectives, but improving the diversity of the police. Already schemes like this are changing the culture of policing by opening it to people from different backgrounds and bringing in fresh talent and new skills.

This year Police Now received over two thousand applications, of which just under half were from women, and a fifth were from people from Black or Ethnic Minority backgrounds. This compares with the current representation levels in the Metropolitan Police where only 12% of police officers are from an ethnic minority background, and 26% are women. The numbers are small overall but we are seeing similarly impressive results from Direct Entry and Fast Track. For those starting direct entry to superintendent scheme this year, half are women and a sixth are from an ethnic minority background. And for external candidates starting their fast track training this year, 46% are women and 23% are from an ethnic minority background. The College of Policing - which I established as a proper professional body, owned by the police, for the police - is leading work to improve diversity and inclusion in policing.

The Code of Ethics has a clear focus on diversity and equality and the BME Progression 2018 programme represents a major piece of work to improve the recruitment, retention and progression of officers from under-represented groups in policing – specifically focusing on those from BME backgrounds, but also valuing the difference that officers from all groups can bring. Every force now has an action plan in place to increase diversity. In addition, the College Leadership review includes recommendations that will support sustainable improvements in the recruitment, progression and retention of under-represented officers - from standardised promotion processes, to nationally advertised posts and greater career flexibility.

And I am grateful to the five chief constables who have signed their force up to the College’s Reverse Mentoring programme, which seeks to give police leaders an insight into the direct lived experience of officers from under-represented groups. Finally, we need to ensure that the working environment for officers is ethical and fair. The Legitimacy pillar of HMIC’s PEEL inspection programme will be published early next year - and will include looking at how well a force develops and maintains an ethical culture, how well it provides for the wellbeing of staff, and how fairly and consistently it deals with complaints and misconduct.

Positive action Now I know that the pace of change is slow and many of you are as impatient for change as I am. I know too that there have been calls from senior officers for positive discrimination. But I think to go down that path would be a mistake. Because what we would be trying to achieve by pursuing positive discrimination rather than other types of positive action? If it is to speed up the pace of change, then the process of passing a law for positive discrimination would itself be lengthy, requiring us to seek a derogation from the EU with no guarantee of success.

If it is to achieve something that other options cannot, then we would need to know that all other options have been exhausted, something which forces can not say right now. And if it is improve trust and confidence in the police, then such action would be counterproductive, undermining not only credibility and confidence in individual officers, but the public’s expectation that progression in the police is based on merit alone. I am clear that the case for positive discrimination is deeply flawed, and we need to pursue other options if we are to improve diversity in the police. Moreover convincing support for such action does not exist. When the College surveyed every BME officer in the country on the introduction of positive discrimination, while just over a third supported it, just over a third did not and just under a third were undecided.

So forces should instead take the steps that are available to them using existing positive action provisions in the Equality Act. And we have already seen just what can be done. The London residency criteria for new recruits to the Metropolitan Police has yielded outstanding results, more than doubling the number from ethnic minority backgrounds. The criteria requires applicants to have lived in London for three out of the previous six years prior to applying, and this summer more than a quarter of recruits came from BME backgrounds.

That means more people who reflect the communities of that diverse global city policing London’s streets. And the Met is not the only force taking steps. There are excellent examples of lawful positive action which show just what can be done from Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire, Thames Valley and from here in the West Midlands. Conclusion But we must go further still. So today I can announce that we are publishing diversity profiles for every police force in England and Wales, to show local communities up and down the country just how representative their police force is - or isn’t.

These profiles – based on self-declared ethnicity data supplied by forces – and which you can find on Police.uk, give breakdowns for officers in each force by gender and ethnicity, compared against the local population. They reveal a hard truth - that no force has a BME representation that matches its local demographic. Incredibly, this data shows that four forces do not employ any Black or Black British police officers at all, and female officers make up 28% of all police officers but 51% of the total population. This comes on top of existing statistics showing that there are only two chief officers who self-identify as BME in England and Wales, and eleven forces with no BME officers above even the rank of chief inspector.

This is simply not good enough. I hope these figures will provide chief constables with the information they need to identify areas for improvement and for the public and PCCs to hold them to account. This is not just about recruitment, but about giving police officers from under-represented groups the same chances and opportunities to develop their skills and rise up the ranks. As I have set out today, there is much that forces can and should do to improve diversity in recruitment, support officers in progression, transform retention, and deliver a more open, inclusive and representative culture than exists today.

Increasing diversity in our police forces is not an optional extra. It goes right to the heart of this country’s historic principle of policing by consent. We must ensure that the public have trust and confidence in the police, and that the police reflect the communities they serve. The National Black Police Association has a vital role to play in this – in supporting and working with the Government, PCCs and chief constables. I hope that this is a role you will gladly take up. And that together we can ensure one nation policing for all.

Published 22 October 2015