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Merseyside chief clashes with PCC over “institutionally racist” comments

PCC Emily Spurrell attempts to clarify comments after chief strongly defends force

Merseyside’s chief constable Serena Kennedy has “categorically denied” that the force is institutionally racist after her PCC said in an interview it was.

PCC Emily Spurrell made the comments in an interview with Policing TV. She said that the force “had been designed by a certain group of people and it does not take into account how black and ethnic minority people might experience things and how they might get treated.”

The PCC has subsequently released a statement seeking to clarify her comments in which she said “acknowledging structural racism doesn’t mean individual officers and staff are racist.”

But her comments have drawn a sharp rebuke from chief constable Kennedy who said that “a lot of work had been done nationally and locally to address this.”

She added: "I categorically do not believe that Merseyside Police is institutionally racist. 

"The history and impact of racism across policing and the harm this has caused to communities and colleagues is clear. We know that policing, like society, is not free of racial discrimination, bias and disproportionality. It still exists in some policies and processes, and we are taking action to change this. We collectively want to improve, we want to progress, we want to be better. We are not institutionally racist.” 

PCC Spurrell sought to clarify her views after the interview but appears to be sticking by her original comments.

She said that: “However we define it, racism and inequality permeate all our public institutions.  

“We can see that from the outcomes for black and ethnic minority people in all walks of life, whether that’s disproportionality in stop searches, over-representation in our criminal justice system and prisons, or disparity in educational outcomes, employment opportunities and healthcare.

“Acknowledging structural racism absolutely doesn’t mean our individual police officers and staff are racist. It means recognising 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 means recognising some of those structures are out-dated and that they don’t work for all our communities now.

“There’s no doubt it is an uncomfortable, difficult conversation. However, I believe that by recognising it in this way, by admitting there are still problems, our communities will have more faith that we are committed to tackling it and changing for the better.

“This is not to suggest we are still in the same place as when the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report was released in 1999. A huge amount of progress has been made since that time.”

PCC Spurrell said she had “scrutinised” CC Kennedy on disproportionality at her public scrutiny meetings and the chief constable “has been unequivocal in her commitment to continuing to embed the right culture across Merseyside Police.”

But she added: “We still live in an unequal society. Policing is embedded in that society. That means - like all walks of life and all institutions – we continue to battle issues of discrimination,  inequality and disparity.”

CC Kennedy disagreed and insisted the force was “anti-racist” in her response. She said: "I see every day how committed my officers and staff are to helping and protecting our communities and how they want to play an active part in ensuring we are anti-racist. We recognise that people across the organisation will have different views and experience and we will continue to encourage open debate and learning across the force so that we provide a policing service that is truly inclusive and anti-racist.”

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