Only yesterday at an event designed to raise awareness of race hate crimes in Manchester I found myself in conversation with a high ranking member of Manchester City Council. As we explored the reasons behind the existing apathy amongst BME communities in reporting race hate crimes one factor we agreed upon was a definite dichotomy that exists between these communities and the Police. The main aspect of which, is representation or the lack there of.
It is why Sir Peter Fahy's comments yesterday concerning positive discrimination in recruiting and promoting police officers are not only welcomed but necessary to put into action. Whilst one can understand the obvious controversies behind such a policy a higher proportion of BME officers would make for a more effective police force. And a more effective police force is what everybody no doubt wants.
As a recently appointed outreach officer for TELL MAMA an instant observation has been the reluctance of Muslim populations to engage with local police forces and report hate crimes. There is a widespread feeling that complaints are not taken seriously and policing is largely ineffective.
This is especially poignant given that The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) statistics have said that 60 percent of all hate crime is targeted at the Muslim community. This is corroborated by TELL MAMA's own research and the organisation's very existence in tackling the disproportionately high rate of hate crime against Muslim populaces.
Given this, the idea that those same victims have no trust in approaching the authority charged with assisting them speaks volumes of a failed relationship. In short this breakdown in trust and communication leads to an ineffective police force with tax payers being the ultimate losers in not getting value for money.
Sir Peter Fahy's rationale behind his proposed idea is the need for a more diverse Police Force to reflect makeup of an increasingly diverse British society. Fahy's proposal would undoubtedly allow the police to understand and therefore engage with BME communities in a better way.
For any public institution to operate effectively there has to be an understanding of the issues facing those it serves. These can be economic and social factors but most important of all is to understand the specific psychology that communities operate upon which leads to certain actions by or against them that they may need to deal with.
This absence in knowing the psychological state of specific communities has led to a breakdown in effective communication between police forces and communities they are charged with protecting. This has effectively cut off the chance for a meaningful relationship.
The point I made to my Councillor friend was that the authoritarian approach and tone that many police officers use in dealing with BME communities may have worked in the past as these communities were finding their feet on British shores. However these more established populaces whose offspring are British born and bred simply don't like being talked down to by a white man in uniform and further more are not prepared to put up with it.
Finally detractors may feel that such deliberate discrimination would lead to talent drain amongst Britain's police forces. However it is arguable that the current image projected by the police of being an almost exclusively white dominated institution especially at the higher echelons is having the same effect.
As I pointed out to the respected Councillor yesterday, that in many of the countries from which BME communities emanate being a police officer or member of the armed forces is seen as a respected occupation and a badge of honour for a family and sometimes even a whole community.
These institutions are often made up of relatively well educated individuals and seen as feasible and high status careers. At least in the eyes of the majority of the BME communities the opposite is true of the British equivalents. An increase in talented BME officers at the top of such a vital institution would go a long way in changing this perception.