I was speaking yesterday in a break out group at the CRE Race Convention. My session was about race discrimination in the criminal justice system. It was a pretty lively debate. A core problem – on which there was widespread agreement – is that of “disproportionality” running through every part of the criminal justice system. This means that people from ethnic minority communities are far more likely to be stop and searched, have DNA records taken and a host of other things than they should be given their proportion of the population or of the criminal population. And – despite a great deal of talking the talk – the issue appears very resistant to fixing.
My own view is that it comes down to leadership. If everyone understood that any discrimination would be monitored and recorded and SUPERVISED – and that jobs would be lost as a result – then we would see a shift. But despite the very genuine efforts – that level of priority and commitment is not yet truly there.
Take the police and the borough commander level. If the crime targets were down – top brass would be on the phone to the local commander wanting to know the reason why! The same cannot be said around issues of disproportionality. So perhaps the next step is, as one man suggested, disproportionality targets. Only the police are already drowning in targets – and unless the top brass take this as seriously as the crime stats – then the results won’t change.
And in case anyone has forgotten – the stats in London (for example) on DNA retention are that against a background of 28% BME population in London, there is a disproportionate arrest rate of 48% and a rate of 60% of DNA records are from the BME population. Translated – that means that not only are the police disproportionately arresting black and ethnic minority people – they are getting it humungously wrong! And time spent wrongly arresting innocent people is time lost on catching criminals.
I have a meeting coming up with a senior Met Officer to discuss the arrest policy. For it seems clear to me that disproportionality starts with stop and search and the continues through the criminal justice system from arrest to sentencing. Another chap very wisely suggested that there be an independent study of disproportionality across the whole criminal justice system – and I think that would be an excellent thing to do.
As for Ken Livingstone’s purile attack on the Race Convention – typical brattish behaviour from a spoilt child! As usual.