Rt Hon Suella Braverman KC MP
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
20 October 2023
HMICFRS Race and Policing Programme: A review of the police service’s leadership and governance arrangements for race-related matters; and an inspection of race disparity in police criminal justice decision-making
I am writing to you in response to the above HMICFRS reports published in August 2023. The reports are the first of a series of thematic inspections under the inspectorate’s race and policing programme. The review report considers the effectiveness of national leadership and governance arrangements that relate to race and policing. The inspection report explores race disparity in police criminal justice decision-making with a focus on how well forces understand, scrutinise and communicate their work.
The leadership review did not include any recommendations for local Chief Constables. However, the inspectorate did refer to the role of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) and further context from a West Mercia perspective is included below.
Of the 8 Police and Crime Plans reviewed by HMICFRS, half had no reference to race, diversity, equality or inclusion (DEI). The inspectorate was concerned that such an omission would make PCCs and Chief Constables less inclined to discuss DEI or make DEI a priority for the force. I am pleased to confirm that my Safer West Mercia Plan contains clear commitments to DEI across a range of themes including putting victims and survivors first, and reassuring West Mercia’s communities. These commitments are strengthened by the equality objectives I have set for my office which are published on my website: https://www.westmercia-pcc.gov.uk/app/uploads/2022/02/OPCC-Equality-Objectives_FINAL.pdf?x49635
The prioritisation of DEI within my Safer West Mercia Plan is further reflected in my work to hold the Chief Constable to account. I have made a commitment to regularly hold the Chief Constable to account on matters related to DEI and have done so consistently across my 2 terms as Commissioner. This scrutiny has covered a range of important themes including representation within the workforce, utilisation of the national Police Uplift Programme, misogyny and misconduct, hate crime, and engagement with ethnic minority communities. My next assurance and accountability meeting with the Chief Constable on 25th October is on DEI in the context of use of police powers and public confidence. The session will focus on many of the areas flagged by the inspectorate as requiring more consistent police and government scrutiny including use of arrest and criminal justice outcomes.
The inspection of race disparity in police criminal justice decision-making included 4 recommendations for local Chief Constables. Chief Constables have been given 12 months to complete the recommendations, and I am confident West Mercia Police will be able to deliver by this deadline. Below I set out how the Chief Constable in West Mercia will address these recommendations over the next year and the wider support provided in my role as Police and Crime Commissioner.
Recommendation 6– By 30 September 2024, chief constables should make sure that forces carry out comprehensive analysis of race disparity in police criminal justice decision-making. Where this analysis indicates that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are disproportionately affected, police forces should explain, or revise, their ways of working.
The force has committed to undertaking an in-depth analysis of race disparity in police criminal justice decision-making in the next 12 months. This will span various aspects of the criminal justice process including arrests, prosecutions and sentencing which will support the force to take steps to either explain or reform in relation to any disparity found. The aim is to identify and rectify any systemic biases that may exist within police decision making.
Improving quality of justice by reducing disproportionality in the criminal justice system is a key priority within my Local Criminal Justice Board (LCJB). As chair of the LCJB, I will continue to work with partners to better understand, explain or reform in relation to disproportionality and will use the force’s analysis to steer these discussions over the next 12 months.
Recommendation 8– By 30 September 2024, chief constables should make sure that information from the Youth Justice Board summary disproportionality toolkit relevant to the force area is included in their force’s analysis of police criminal justice disparity.
I welcome this recommendation. Whilst PCC’s have been given access to the Youth Justice Board disproportionality toolkit, it currently cannot be shared with the public, police forces or partner agencies to drive activity and therefore has limited use. PCCs and forces should be empowered to access, analyse and share the data to ensure a full understanding of police criminal justice disparity. The force will not be able to satisfy this recommendation locally until the NPCC progresses recommendation 7 and issues guidance and advice to Chief Constables in respect of access and data sharing agreements / protocols.
Recommendation 10– By 30 September 2024, chief constables should make sure that work takes place with communities, police and crime commissioners, and other agencies to establish or build on arrangements for the scrutiny of police criminal justice disparity.
West Mercia Police will work closely with community representatives, my office, and other relevant agencies to establish or strengthen mechanisms for scrutinising police decisions and disparity. This collaborative approach is crucial in ensuring that community voices are heard, and that there is transparency in addressing disparities. It will involve engaging in constructive dialogue and actively seeking input from stakeholders to develop effective solutions through appropriate scrutiny panels.
The force already has well established Independent Advisory Groups (IAGs) and scrutiny panels, with a strategic IAG group including PCC and Chief Officer representatives. Ongoing dialogue will help further strengthen these arrangements and help inform the development of new arrangements; for example, custody scrutiny panels.
Recommendation 11- By 30 September 2024, chief constables should make sure that information about criminal justice disparity is published on force websites, or that force websites clearly link to other websites where this information can be found. Published information should include any explanations for identified disparity and actions forces will take to address it.
West Mercia will take steps to ensure that information about criminal justice disparity is readily accessible to the public. This information will either be published directly on force websites or prominently linked to other websites where it can be found. Importantly, the published information will include explanations for any identified disparities and outline the specific actions that each force plans to take to address them. This transparency is aimed at fostering public trust and accountability.
I welcome the force’s commitment to increase the data and information they publish on their website in relation to race disparity. As set out in my Safer West Mercia Plan, these things will ultimately help develop and enhance engagement, transparency and, crucially, positive relationships between the police and the communities they serve.
Although West Mercia was not inspected as part of the report, I welcome this programme of work being undertaken by HMICFRS. I will continue to utilise the recommendations set out to inform local activity through my LCJB and assurance and accountability meetings with the Chief Constable; and in my national role as APCC equality, diversity and human rights lead.
Police and Crime Commissioner
cc West Mercia Police Chief Constable