North Yorkshire Police, which was singled out for criticism by the Home Secretary for failing to employ any black or black British officers, is set to become Britain’s first to be “representative of its population”, a meeting has heard.
North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan said while a concerted drive to recruit more officers who are women, from ethnic minorities or from LGBT+ communities had proved successful, concerns remained that by recruiting graduate officers, the force’s frontline would not accurately reflect the county’s residents.
Mrs Mulligan told the North Yorkshire and York Police, Fire and Crime Panel the force would be representative of its population from April, almost five years after then-Home Secretary Theresa May said the force needed to take action over its staff make-up.
Although the force’s upper ranks are equally split between men and women officers, recent years have seen recruitment drives to increase the number of women PCs and sergeants and encourage people from black and minority communities to join its ranks.
According to the latest Home Office data, in April last year, 1.8 per cent of the county’s police officers were non-white compared to 3.4 per cent of the population of North Yorkshire.
The statistics also showed 34.1 per cent of police officers were women. However, the proportion of PCSOs that were women was 50.5 per cent and 59 per cent of the force’s non-officer staff were women.
Members raised concerns that the force was concentrating on recruiting graduates, and after being told “boots on the beat” were what was wanted, Mrs Mulligan said her views were similar.
Member Santhok Singh Sidhu said: “If I go back as far as 1829 Robert Peel said the Police Service should represent the community and the population it serves and if we are going to become very selective as to who becomes a police officer we will not be making that reflection.”
Mrs Mulligan said diversity in the force had improved to an extent in which it had become a role model for the county’s fire service, which was beginning “to take diversity more seriously”.
She said the latest fire service recruitment drive had seen the highest level of female applicants that it had have ever had.
She said: “I was disappointed to see that not many of those individuals were successful. There is learning for the service about how they went about that. I think there is learning from North Yorkshire Police, who have come on in leaps and bounds in this over the last two years.
“We are working with the chief fire officer around this. He has a very open mind. He is very keen to improve the diversity of the service and leads by example in that respect in the way he behaves and talks.
“It’s work in progress. I don’t think it’s just about training needs. It’s a deep cultural issue about the way they behave, about the way they talk on the station, the way the team dynamics within the service and the leadership behaviour, so there is a whole range of issues that need to be looked at.”