Should the police force be able to use positive discrimination rather than positive action to recruit and promote more people from black, female and other ethnic minority groups?
It has become important that both women and ethnic minority groups are represented in the police force as if this does not happen the communities the police are supposed to serve are not properly represented.
Although there have been several schemes to allow women and ethnic minority groups to be properly represented in the police force, these schemes have not yet been successful. This can be seen in the Home Office, Labour Force Survey 1997-1998.
The survey shows that the targets to increase the percentage of ethnic minorities found within police forces in certain areas of the country have failed, for example in Bedfordshire the target was 9.9% but in actual fact the result was a dismal 3.4%, and this shows that the representation thought to be needed in this area was not achieved.
In 1999, the Government set police forces targets to recruit more female and ethnic minority officers. Within, this every police force in England and Wales was being urged to set up special schemes to help new female and recruits of ethnic minorities and to also achieve the aim of increasing the number of officers from ethnic minorities.
The targets were not met and as a result the moves made by the Government did not work. Not only did the targets fail to be met but also many black and Asian recruits left the police force only a couple of years after joining.
Positive discrimination means choosing people solely on the grounds of their gender, racial origin, and sexuality etc, as long as they meet the certain minimum standards. Positive discrimination is, however, illegal in the UK.
In 2004 the Government was considering using positive discrimination as “a way of boosting the fight against terrorism”. It was also seen as one of the few ways to make links with the ethnic minorities communities who may hold vital intelligence, as ethnic minorities may only open up to a police officer of the same background.
The view that the police should be able to use positive discrimination rather than positive action to recruit and promote more people from black, female and other ethnic minority groups is held by a number of people, including the chief constable of Cheshire and also the deputy chief of Cambridgeshire, Julie Spence, who believes that positive discrimination will have a positive effect on the policing of the country.
Positive discrimination can be used as a way of boosting the fight against terrorism this has been shown through Britain’s top officers saying that it is more difficult to make links with ethnic minority communities, who may hold vital intelligence, as there are too few ethnic minority police officers from the same backgrounds as these communities to create good relationships with them.
Social justice is a way to rectify past and present discrimination of a specified group, and positive discrimination would be seen as a way to help social justice happen. The scheme would see that selected black, Asian and female officers would be offered entry into the police service in promoted posts. This scheme would also mean that, again for social justice, decisions on selection and promotions being made on race and gender rather than merit alone.
Another reason for positive discrimination is that positive action is not actually working. Peter Fahy, chief constable of Cheshire, says that the targets that the government set every police force has been missed and that the police force “need to do some of the things we [the police force] have ruled out in the past”, i.e. positive discrimination.
Although this is the case, the view that the police should not be able to use positive discrimination rather than positive action to recruit and promote more people from black, female and other ethnic minority groups is also held by a number of people, who include the president of the National Black Police Association as well as the Chief Inspector.
Positive discrimination is in essence racism, and therefore by using positive discrimination it would be using racism to fight racism and cause greater hatred and more problems within the actual police force. It is now thought a there would be a backlash among white recruits as they would be the ones getting turned down for jobs because of their colour, causing them to feel as though they are the ones who are being discriminated against. Also it might be a case where recruits from ethnic minorities would want to be judge solely on their ability causing more problems because of the use of positive discrimination.
Because of positive discrimination people who would be chosen would only need to have the minimum standards required for the job may be chosen based purely on their gender or ethnic origin rather than their experience, even Ray Powell, the president of the National Black Police Association, says that “there was a risk of unsuitable recruits being hired to boost the force’s record of race”. This would mean that positive discrimination would backfire as the people that would be put into the higher positions would not have the right experiences needed to handle the problems brought up in the communities they are there to protect and serve.
The federation’s chairman, Chief Inspector Jan Berry brought up an interesting point saying that by using positive discrimination could lower standards within the police force and even if this did not happen “there would be a perception that ethnic minority recruits only got the job because of their colour – and that perception will affect working relationships. If this occurred as the Chief Inspector says it will the problems of positive discrimination could potentially become worse than those that are currently in place without the use of positive discrimination.
The environment in which black, female and other ethnic minority police officers work in need to be changed rather than introducing positive discrimination. Although it is easier to enter into using positive discrimination, it would make more sense to change the problems in society and the police force themselves to accept people from different ethnic minority groups. As well as this it would mean that the total ethos at work would change, changing the way police officers act towards others, for example women would be welcomed into the police culture, changing it from a macho ‘lads and dads’ culture into one of a mixed range of genders, ethnic groups as well as ages, with everybody’s need and wants being meet without the use of positive discrimination.
In both articles and in people’s own opinion there have been examples of bias. An example can be seen in the article headlined “police too white to fight terror”.
This implies that white police officers are not capable to deal with terror as “there are too few ethnic minority officers to make links with communities who may hold vital intelligence”. This is therefore saying that it ethnic minorities causing the terror and crime.
Personally, I feel that positive discrimination is not the way forward. Choosing someone for a job purely based on their ethnic origin or gender rather than their work experience and merit is wrong as it is not allowing people who may have worked hard for many years to get the jobs they want. Although, positive discrimination in the police force would help ethnic minorities as well as females, it would ultimately cause discrimination of the white recruits, who make up a large majority of the police force.
If positive discrimination is not introduced then the problems that are occurring now would continue to occur. Although this would be the case there would ultimately be fewer problems as the white recruits would not be overlooked for jobs and those recruits from the ethnic minorities and female would get jobs based on merit rather than their gender or race, which a majority of them would want.
However, if positive discrimination was introduced problems with making links into ethnic minority communities would not occur as there would be members of the police force with the same ethnic origin or race who would be more welcome into that community. Positive discrimination would also allow ethnic minority, as well as female, police recruits to achieve high ranked jobs quickly rather than slowly as it has been said that many new recruits from ethnic minorities left the police force only a couple of years after joining.