HC Deb 04 November 2003 vol 412 cc577-8W
Keith Vaz

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he intends to take in relation to racial discrimination in the police force. [135384]

Ms Blears

I am committed to driving out racist attitudes wherever they are found. We are engaged with the leadership of the Police Service in addressing diversity and racism in recruitment, training and development and in the conduct of officers and staff. I welcome the service's determination to confront racism, as evidenced by Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO's) seven point programme. I welcome too the Commission for Racial Equality's investigation announced on 30 October and their wish to work consultatively with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

We have developed new selection processes which test candidates' attitudes towards race and diversity vigorously through interviews, role play and written assessment. These processes are already in place in 13 forces and will be implemented in the remainder of the service by summer 2004. Those candidates who do not meet the standard are not recruited, regardless of performance elsewhere in the assessments.

Fundamental changes to the way in which probationer constables are trained are under way. The focus will be in delivery of practice-based training within the local community rather than in residential police training centres. This new approach is already being piloted in several areas of the country. A new curriculum is being designed which will reinforce high professional standards and respect for race and diversity. Engagement with the community will be a key element in the new programme. The training of trainers and tutor constables in race and diversity awareness will also be addressed. The new programme will start to be trialled from April 2004.

A review of the delivery of Community and Race Relations training in the Police Service was published by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in March 2003 and the recommendations of that report are being taken forward. The strategy for the next phase of the training will call for leadership at all levels to drive cultural change.

There are procedures under the Police Act 1996 and the Police (Misconduct) Regulations 1999 to deal with conduct which falls below the required standard. These procedures can be invoked by way of a complaint from a member of the public or a report or allegation from any other person. This includes any complaint or allegation of racial discrimination or attitudes. The Police Reform Act 2002 introduces a new complaints system to come into force on 1 April 2004, under which serious racial discrimination is a category of a complaint that must be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which will decide how such a complaint will be dealt with.

It is important that attitudes within the service change and that staff themselves are confident to bring forward evidence of racism. I do not wish to rely on revelations by the media but on proper investigation, analysis and decisive action by senior officers when they are made aware of such evidence.

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