A Liverpool MP is set to meet with the new Chief Constable of Merseyside Police to discuss the matter of recruiting more police officers from minority backgrounds as well as the opportunity for career progression within the force.

The meeting will happen between Liverpool Riverside MP Kim Johnson and Chief Constable Serena Kennedy as new data sets show that - with a police workforce that is far less diverse than the actual population - Black people in Merseyside were still much more likely to be targeted with stop and search; have force used against them; and, be detained under the Mental Health Act compared to white people.

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New Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, who started her role as Merseyside top cop in April this year, confirmed to the ECHO in a statement that she is "really pleased" that Ms Johnson was an observer at the last scrutiny panel, and she is "looking forward" to working alongside the MP to achieve her aim of seeing an increase in the number of officers and staff from underrepresented communities.

More than a year ago, the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer sparked protests against police brutality across the world.

While the incident happened in the USA, concerns were raised that Black people in the UK were also being discriminated against by police.

Analysis of official government figures - which at the time only went up to March 2019 - did indeed reveal evidence of racial inequality within forces in England and Wales, including Merseyside Police.

Now, the latest data for the year to March 2020 shows very little had changed in the year leading up to Floyd’s death - although the situation is improving in some ways.

With a police workforce that is far less diverse than the actual population, Black people in Merseyside were still much more likely to be targeted with stop and search, have force used against them and be detained under the Mental Health Act compared to white people.

Police data

19

The number of Black police officers employed by Merseyside Police Force in 2019/20

Police data

Despite a significant increase in the overall number of police officers employed by Merseyside Police Force in the last year, only 19 of them were Black in 2019/20 - up only slightly from 18 in 2018/19.

Just 0.5% of the force are Black, while 95.2% are white.

It means the force is much less diverse than the actual population of Merseyside, with White people making up 93.7% of residents, and Black people 1.2% of the population.

Meanwhile, Black people were nearly three times more likely than White people to be stopped and searched by Merseyside police in 2019/20 - although the difference was slightly smaller than the year before.

The ethnicity gap in the use of Section 60 has also decreased, with Black people in Merseyside now only slightly more likely to be stopped and searched using this power - down from nearly seven times more likely in 2018/19.

Section 60 allows police to stop people without suspicion that a crime is actually taking place.

Black people were also more than three times more likely to have force used against them by Merseyside police than white people, but again the gap had shrunk from five times in 2018/19.

Use of force includes tactics such as handcuffing, other restraint, use of batons, irritant sprays, tasers and firearms.

At the same time, Black people in Merseyside were more than three times more likely than white people to be detained by police under the Mental Health Act last year, and that gap had grown from twice as likely.

Under the Act, the police can formally detain a person if they appear to have a mental disorder, in the interests of their own health or safety, or for the protection of other people.

Local figures on deaths during or following police contact are not broken down by ethnicity.

Asked for her thoughts on the data, Kim Johnson - Liverpool's first Black MP - said: "I have raised the issue of disproportionate police profiling of Black people with Merseyside Police previously, and now we have both a new Chief Constable and Police and Crime Commissioner, I hope to follow this up with constructive dialogue about how we can reduce these disparities.

"I want to see a reduction in disproportionate stop and search and use of force against Black people, and the criminalisation of Black people with mental health issues.

"Obviously, one way to rebuild trust with the Black communities is to recruit more police officers from different racial minorities, offer them career progression and it is something I want to discuss with Chief Constable Kennedy when we meet in a couple of weeks.

"I would like to think we share an aim of keeping citizens and communities safe and, as the local MP, I will demand adequate funding from the Government to achieve this."

The ECHO asked Merseyside Police for a response to Ms Johnson's comments and the data, and the force made clear it is committed to building on the foundations already laid to become representative of the communities it serves.

A Merseyside Police statement added: "We know that greater inclusion of under-represented groups can help to provide trust, empathy, reassurance and support to communities across Merseyside.

"As well as taking steps to proactively improve and monitor diversity and inclusion within the organisation, the force is also working hard to improve the progression and retention of officers from under-represented groups.

"Over the last 12 months, we have also worked collaboratively with volunteers from across Merseyside to review, monitor and amend our stop and search practices."

Chief Constable Serena Kennedy
Chief Constable Serena Kennedy

In the force's statement, which was sent to the ECHO, the new Chief Constable of Merseyside Police also expressed her desire to improve matters.

Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, Serena Kennedy, said: “When I became Chief Constable, I made clear my commitment to improving our recruitment, retention and progression of those groups currently under-represented in our force.

"The force's Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Network, and our Diversity, Equality Inclusion (DEI) team, is working hard - and has been for some time - to promote recruitment webinars and initiatives specifically for those from under-represented groups.

"We know that our workforce is less diverse than the population we serve - and we're working to change that. Representation in this area has improved year-on-year, and as of the beginning of June 2021 workforce data for black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals at Merseyside Police is 3.2%, including specials and agency staff.

"This has gone up slightly from the end of May 2020, when 3% of our workforce was made up of black, Asian and ethnic minority people, including specials and agency staff.

"We know this needs to improve further, and we want to increase our representation so we are truly reflective of our communities, but before we can do that we need to ensure that those communities have trust and confidence in the policing service we provide.

"The force currently has regular meetings with the diversity, equality, inclusion (DEI) team, Community Engagement, and the MIAG (Merseyside Independent Advisory Groups), along with community leaders to see how we work together to achieve this going forward.

"I personally chair a strategic group with staff from across the force to review the work undertaken and progress made to date, as well as any opportunities for the future. This is one of my force priorities.

"In line with the National Police Chief's Council (NPCC) Workforce Representation strategy, which aims to make policing more diverse and inclusive, our focus includes the attraction, recruitment, progression, and retention of under-represented groups. The support we offer as part of this includes one-to-one mock interviews and webinars for developing interview skills.

"We are also working directly with our communities to engage and recruit people from under-represented backgrounds. Our current partnership with Liverpool's Blackburne House will deliver a three-week training course via Zoom from 28 June for those who are looking to apply for our apprenticeship programme, and is specifically aimed at people from under-represented groups who may be considering a role in the police. At previous courses, key people from our organisation speak with under-represented groups about their area of expertise.

"Our officers and staff also attend community hubs and jobs fairs, as well as supermarket events across Merseyside each month, to invite constructive conversations and encourage diverse and dynamic talent to join us.

"These are not just words or token gestures. We have listened, and continue to listen, to our communities, partners and key community representatives. To encourage people to join the police, we must first ensure that those communities have trust and confidence in the policing service we provide, without that we won’t achieve the representative force that we are aiming for. Every interaction we have with the public matters, and we need to ensure we get our policing style right for all our communities.”

In relation to stop and search, Chief Constable Serena Kennedy added: "This is a crucial policing power which has allowed us to tackle and prevent serious and organised crime - seizing weapons, drugs, and arresting those who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Of course, it can only be a crucial policing power if it is used fairly and properly.

"Over the last few years we have introduced a number of measures to ensure this, including a policy for officers to activate body worn cameras during stop and searches to capture evidence. We have also introduced community scrutiny panels, in which volunteers in our communities review stop and searches. Panel members give feedback and we update on any outcomes and changes to our practice that arise.

"I am really pleased that Kim Johnson MP was an observer at the last scrutiny panel, and that she has stated she wants to continue to support Merseyside Police in increasing the number of officers and staff from underrepresented communities. I look forward to working alongside her to achieve this and discussing the issues further.

"We’re aware of, and consistently analyse, all stop search figures - the most current of which (from April this year to date), show that black people are 1.5 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched in Merseyside. While this figure needs to be improved, it is significantly less than the average across England and Wales - which shows that a black person is six times more likely to be stopped than a white person. Our figures for Merseyside also show a small but consistent drop over a three-year period: from 1.8 for 2020/21, 2.3 for 2019/20 and 2.8 for 2018/19.

"The current figure equates to 144 searches of black people, 2% of a total of 9,299 stop searches across Merseyside. It is also worth noting that there is no disproportionality in the stop searches of black, Asian and minority ethnic communities overall across Merseyside."

Recruitment initiatives

At these interactive events potential applicants can sign up to attend a one-hour session ahead of the next recruitment window. Those who take part will hear more about our recruitment process, the range of benefits they would receive and an input on positive action support that can be given by the DEI team. The webinars also include serving black officers who talk about their personal journey in our organisation.

Any applicants who would like to attend future webinars can email [email protected]

The Chief Constable has committed to an uplift of seven staff (internal only) to the diversity, equality, inclusion (DEI) team. Recruitment for this team will start in the next fortnight.

Our newly created Outreach Team will be led by a Sergeant and consists of six police constables (or police staff equivalent), and will see employees seconded to the DEI team for a minimum period of 12 months. The overall aim of the Outreach Team is to improve the perception and accessibility of careers within Merseyside Police for communities and groups who are currently under-represented. The team will identify and break down barriers which may be preventing people from under-represented communities from joining the police, particularly those from black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The next recruitment event at Blackburne House (via Zoom) is on Monday 28 June. The training course is designed to develop necessary skills and knowledge for those interested in applying for the role of Police officer. This three-week programme is specifically aimed at applicants that are 17+ female and from a minority ethnic background.

Potential applicants can contact Blackburne House directly to book via [email protected].

This four-week programme runs for two hours each week and provides an in-depth insight into the Police Online Assessment Centre, which is part of our recruitment process. It reflects our commitment to become an employer of choice, with the aim of creating a workforce which is reflective of all the communities we serve.

The first Phoenix Course commenced in November 2020 and attracted 11 potential candidates. Of these, five black, Asian and minority ethnic (male) attendees have gone on to submit applications to work with us.

The second Phoenix course commenced on 12 January and ran over three weeks. Of the 21 people who signed up, 14 went on to make an application, and nine of these are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

In 2020 the Diversity, Equality Inclusion Team set up the Pedals (Professional Development and Action Learning Sets) programme for Police Constables, Sergeants and Police Staff grades A-E who have a protected characteristic which is underrepresented in our force.

Through a series of leadership training, workshops, action plans and action learning sets there is a clear emphasis on personal development. There are seven days training in total over a 12 month period, including:

To further support the personal development of the candidates, the DEI team have trained 38 mentors who have been matched according to their experience, skills and abilities and the development requirements of the PEDALS candidates.