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Positive discrimination in the police force

Category: Pro-Opinion

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CIPD: Positive discrimination in the police force

Discrimination in the police force? Standing still is not an option when it comes to improving diversity across public-facing services, writes Inspector Mustafa Mohammed

I embarked on my lifelong ambition to become a police officer with my home force, West Midlands Police, some 28 years ago. I was stationed in a predominantly white neighbourhood and my colleagues seemed to have little understanding of my faith, its importance and impact on my work life. No matter how circumspect my observance of my religious obligations, certain aspects and periods like Ramadhan proved a huge challenge, so I resorted to taking annual leave instead. I often compromised my religious principles to fit in and be part of the team culture.

The Equality Act 2010 brought about the first real focus of religion within the workplace and empowered Muslim staff in particular to voice their concerns of the lack of faith provisions such as prayer rooms, fasting flexibility and Hajj leave. This certainly helped to alleviate the relative unease that existed between the observance of an individual’s religious obligations and working responsibilities.

In my experience, Muslim employees have never asked for superfluous perks, but just sought simple flexibility within their working day to accommodate the observance of their faith, such as a quiet space to perform daily prayer – which, incidentally, takes no longer than a cigarette break.

Times have certainly moved on over the last few decades, and today I believe that the faith agenda is reasonably catered for, but the question of under-representation in recruitment and progression (upward and lateral) remains a wider BME issue. This has become more apparent recently by the over-representation of BME staff within misconduct procedures.

Recent research shows that the BME population across the UK is at 14 per cent, and is estimated to be between 20 and 30 per cent by 2050. If you look at the current BME make-up of police forces, it is clear that the positive action initiatives launched with goodwill have failed to deliver the results that are required. In 2015, just 5.5 per cent of police officers were from a BME background.

I have previously not given countenance to positive discrimination for the simple reason that it taints BME recruits as being given preferential access on the basis of their skin rather than equal merit. I see the representation gap significantly widening in the future and police forces ill-equipped to bridge that gap. BME targets are set and missed by police forces and I have not seen any innovative and seminal solutions to change that. Some police chiefs have called for positive discrimination and cite its use in Northern Ireland.

I firmly believe it should at least be on the discussion table.

Any new legislation will obviously create challenges for HR practitioners but, with time and the sharing of best practices, these can be overcome. Progression of BME staff needs to be a key priority; BME communities need to see more BME role models in the higher ranks. I would like to see every Muslim member of staff be able to go home to their families, friends and communities and tell positive stories about being in the police service. I do feel that this personal message from the affected group will be the ‘feu de joie’ rather than the usual marketing campaign.

If we truly yearn to be inclusive, then enough with the excuses. It’s time to be revolutionary.

Inspector Mustafa Mohammed is president of the National Association of Muslim Police and chair of the West Midlands Association of Muslim Police

VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please call 02037405973 or email info@vercida.com for more information.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email info@vercida.com for more information.

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