Police staff now less representative of communities, says UNISON

The proportion of police staff from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (BME) employed by police forces in England and Wales has fallen dramatically, says UNISON research published today (Wednesday).

There has been a drop of nearly a third in the proportion of BME police community support officers (PCSOs), according to an analysis of Home Office data*. They represented just 9.5% of the total PCSO workforce in 2018, compared with 14% in 2005.

The trend is also downwards for BME support staff such as front desk enquiry officers and 999 call handlers. The proportion fell from 7% to 6.8% over the same timescale.

BME police officer representation has risen slowly from 3.5% in 2005 to 6.6% in 2018, but UNISON says this increase is not nearly enough.

The UNISON findings are published 20 years on from the Macpherson report which called for radical improvements in policing towards race and diversity.

UNISON says the figures highlight how police forces are failing to represent the communities they serve, and that cutbacks are partly to blame for the drop in BME police staff and PCSOs.

The union is calling on the Home Office and police forces to come up with an action plan to reverse what it says is a worrying trend.

A joint pledge to improve race equality in the police service has also been agreed between UNISON and the National Black Police Association (NBPA).

Both organisations plan to raise their concerns with the home affairs select committee over the lack of progress in BME representation in the police service since Macpherson.

UNISON national officer for police and justice Ben Priestley said: “This fall is deeply concerning and damages the credibility of the police service.

“Policing should be coming more – not less – representative of the communities it serves. Police staff have a hugely important role assisting not only police officers but the public too.

“The danger is that progress made by the police service in diversity since the Macpherson report will be jeopardised unless this decline is reversed.”

NBPA vice president Franstine Jones said: “Police staff perform many important roles. But their decline has gone unnoticed because the focus has always been on police officers.

“The NBPA will be working with UNISON to highlight the real picture of BME staffing.”

Notes to editors:
-*The data analysed by UNISON is from Home Office statistical reports on the police workforce. Click here for the figures in full.
-UNISON supports 31,500 police staff and PCSOs in 41 forces in England and Wales.
-The government target for police service diversity is that forces should become representative of the communities they serve. The BME representation among the general public in England and Wales is currently 14%, according to ONS figures.
-UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in both the public and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Liz Chinchen T: 0207 121 5463 M: 07778 158175 E: l.chinchen@unison.co.uk
Sophie Goodchild T: 0207 121 5546 M: 07767 325595 E: s.goodchild@unison.co.uk