Full statement from police chief as Merseyside police branded ‘institutional racist’
Serena Kennedy issued a statement on behalf of Merseyside Police after the force was branded ‘institutionally racist’ by local police and Crime Commissioner (CCP) Emily Spurrell.
Ms Spurrell, who was elected in May 2021, said while the ‘vast majority’ of officers were ‘incredibly dedicated’ and ‘non-racist’ – the institution had been ‘designed by a certain group of people’ and ‘n ‘didn’t take into account’ the experiences of black and ethnic minorities Merseyside Chief Constable Serena Kennedy flatly denied the force was institutionally racist, while the Merseyside Police Federation, representing officers base, said Ms Spurrell’s comments were “deeply disappointing”.
Ms Spurrell made the comments during a chat with Policing TV journalist Danny Shaw, who asked: ‘Do you accept that Merseyside Police are institutionally racist?’
READ MORE: Merseyside Police are ‘institutionally racist’, says Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell
She replied: “Yes. Yes. And I had this conversation with my boss [Serena Kennedy]. Because I think when you look at the definition of institutional racism, it’s not about individual agents. I know the Mersesyide police, absolutely, the vast majority are incredibly dedicated, not racist, you know, to me, they’re absolutely committed to serving the public, whoever they are.
“And very often they will go out of their way to engage with minority communities. So the definition of institutional racism is not about calling individual agents racist, it’s about saying, as an institution , like with many institutions across the country, it was designed by a certain group of people, and it doesn’t take into account how, you know, black people and ethnic minorities might experience things and how they might be treated.”
The comments came as part of a discussion involving Ms Spurrell, Dorset PCC David Sedwick and Hertfordshire PCC David Lloyd on various policing topics, including efforts to tackle institutional racism. Mr Lloyd and Mr Sedwick said they did not believe their respective police forces were institutionally racist.
Today Chief Constable Kennedy responding to Ms Spurrell’s comments on behalf of the force, she said: ‘I categorically do not believe Merseyside Police are institutionally racist. The history and impact of racism on policing and the harm this has caused to communities and colleagues is clear.
“There has been a lot of work done nationally and locally to understand and address this issue. We know that the police, like society, are not free from racial discrimination, bias and disproportionality. still in certain policies and processes, and we are taking action to change that.
“We collectively want to improve, we want to progress, we want to be better. We are not institutionally racist. There has been a lot of work to understand how we need to change, and progress has been made but we know we have to do more, and we are committed to it.
“The National Action Plan on Race, developed by the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs’ Council, through a dedicated work programme, will be released shortly, which sets out the vision that the police will be actively anti-racist and the work needed We will build on what we have already done on Merseyside to implement this plan.
“Part of this includes creating an outreach team that works at the heart of our most diverse communities to build relationships and trust and working with our Merseyside Independent Advisory Group to capture the views and voices of our communities.
“I see every day how committed my officers and staff are to helping and protecting our communities and how much they want to play an active role in ensuring we are anti-racist. We recognize that people in the organization will have different perspectives and experiences and we will continue to encourage open debate and learning across the force so that we provide a truly inclusive and anti-racist policing service.
“When I became Chief Constable in April 2021, I identified community engagement and inclusion as key priorities for the force. Over the past few months I have spoken to officers and staff across force and have listened to their views on the proposed National Race Action Plan and will be meeting with stakeholders and community representatives to discuss the details of the plan as soon as it is released.
“We will continue to constantly review and assess the way we work, actively listen to communities and our colleagues, and work together to continue to provide a police service on Merseyside that puts our communities first.”
A Merseyside Police Federation spokesman said: “It is deeply disappointing to hear from Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell that Merseyside Police are institutionally racist. We refute that statement.
“Our members serve Merseyside to the best of their abilities, running into danger to help members of the public in an emergency. Our members serve a diverse community and are proud to do so.”
Contacted by ECHO about the interview, Ms Spurrell said in a statement: ‘If we are serious about tackling racism in our institutions, we must first acknowledge the scale of the problem. Racism and inequality permeate all our public establishments.
“We can see that from the outcomes for black and minority ethnic people from all walks of life, whether it’s the disproportion in arrests, the overrepresentation in our criminal justice system and in prisons, or disparity in educational outcomes, job opportunities and health care.
“Acknowledging structural racism absolutely does not mean our police and staff are racist. It means recognizing that our systems and processes were designed by a certain group of people in a different time when the make-up of society was different. It does means acknowledging that some of these structures are outdated and not working for all of our communities now.
“There is no doubt that this is an uncomfortable and difficult conversation. However, I believe that by acknowledging it in this way, by admitting that there are still problems, our communities will have more confidence that we are committed to deal with it and change for the better.
“That’s not to say we’re still where we were when the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report was released in 1999. Huge progress has been made since then.
“But we must continue to be actively anti-racist if we are to regain trust, especially among black communities. That means being open and honest, owning the issue and taking proactive steps to redress the balance.
“Merseyside Police, under the leadership of the Chief Constable, has already taken significant steps to tackle disproportionality. This includes ensuring officers and staff are more representative of the communities they serve, create a dedicated diversity, equality and inclusion team, reduce disproportionality in stops, and enable public scrutiny of the stop and search from body-worn camera footage .
“All of this is positive work. We are taking great steps in the right direction and I welcome the Chief Constable’s commitment to go even further. I reviewed it disproportionately in my review meeting public and she has been unequivocal in her commitment to continuing to embed the right culture in Merseyside Policing.
“But we still live in an unequal society. The police are embedded in this society. This means – like all walks of life and all institutions – that we continue to address issues of discrimination, inequality and disparity .”