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NBPA Chair: “The environment is toxic at the minute”

The Chair of the National Black Police Association has told Police Oracle that his local Chairs are feeling the emotional and physical drain of being "caught in the middle".

The NBPA Chair, Andy George, has called for “radical measures” including changing the way misconduct and grievances are handled internally. He also says that the local Chairs of the association feel caught in the middle between the police and the community.

“The environment at the minute just feels so toxic,” he said.

“Since the Black Lives Matter movement, the murder of George Floyd, there has been a lot more demands, placed on local chairs. They have full time roles and they also now have to do the work of the BPA.

“They have to explain to colleagues why communities feel the way they do, then they’re on the streets and speaking to their families about how policing is operating – you’re always caught in the middle.”

PSNI Chief Inspector George spoke to Police Oracle shortly after this year's annual NBPA conference hosted by Gloucestershire Constabulary. 

It was also days after the Casey review which found that Black officers and staff were 81 per cent more likely to receive a misconduct allegation than a white colleague.

Ch Insp George said this highlights what the NBPA has been saying for years about disproportional treatment– the bigger problem, he added, was that this was not specific to the Met.

He said the way forward would be an independent body similar to the IOPC which would look after internal matters and grievances.

He added they would be able to do thematic reviews, like the IOPC, as well as avoid any “pally-pally” relationships.

“Too often forces have maybe 10-20 superintendents who are investigating discrimination as part of professional standards but if some of them have gone through the service with people that were in their squad, who they’ve worked with in the past […] It’s a conflict of interest a lot of the time and too often it’s not picked up and not dealt with.

“I have spoken to a number of Chief Constables about individual incidents and those Chiefs are telling me – ‘that person’s not a reliable person, they’re not this, that or the other.’ There’s this whole corridor of whispers that go up and that taints the view of victims.

“And sometimes that’s what you’re up against- often not just the person that’s bullying, but it’s almost like you’re fighting the whole organisation as well.”

The NBPA has just under 5,000 members across 50 police forces who have their own branches that feed back into the national organisation.

During Covid, however, officers in the Met set up another “informal” Black Police Network strand. It wasn’t fully endorsed but Chief Insp George said it did have the support of senior leaders – despite the overlap with the Met’s branch of the NBPA.

“There were a number of senior officers from Black and Asian backgrounds that were trying to find the softer voice, and one that that's more palatable towards policing," he said. "But again, I said, the NBPA speaks truth to power and that we work with policing.”

He said it was important to demonstrate unity rather than division and that he has had meetings with this group.

He also doesn’t think it’s the reason Sir Mark Rowley declined his initial invitation to have a face to face meeting – although Police Oracle understands that a meeting between the pair has since been arranged.

“It just shows there may not be a willingness to admit these problems and there may not be a willingness to look at them properly.

“I think they’ve realised that we have a louder voice than maybe they thought we did to begin with, and as everyone else is working with us – they need to as well.  

“It's a positive that he is willing to meet. But again, disappointing that he didn’t when the offer was first there, and that was only two weeks ago.”

The NBPA were the first staff association to sit on the National Programme Board for the NPCC Race Action Plan.

For Ch Insp George, a collaboration between lived experience and policing expertise is the way to make changes moving forward.

However, he said there are some Chiefs “almost hiding behind the fact that they’ve signed up to it”.

Some, he said, are more engaged and others are ‘ice-breaker forces’ who are taking some specific actions and testing good practice or developing new initiatives.

It’s a wider problem, of getting 44 or 45 different leaders to all stand behind one idea.

“But, we do it for firearms, and public order- I don’t see why we can’t do the same here.

“Have a plan that allows for local variations but with certain principles that are non-negotiable.”

The Race Action Plan is currently out for consultation and is set to be updated in December.

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