We are currently experiencing network problems with the desktop version of Police Oracle. We hope to have these resolved as soon as possible.

Race Action Programme shouldn't replicate hierarchical structure seen in policing

The Independent Scrutiny and Oversight Board has published its first annual report today.

The Race Action Programme should not follow existing police structures given the reports which have pointed towards those structures themselves "manifest[ing]" racism, a scrutiny board has said.

The plan’s Independent Scrutiny and Oversight Board [ISOB] says the programme “must flatten its structure” to both better reward talent and dedication and reduce the distance between decision-makers and those executing the tasks.

“The shape [of the programme] is in a pyramid, with lower ranking officers dedicating the most time to the Programme without much decision-making power; those towards the top increase in police rank and balance their Programme responsibilities against other national pieces of work,” the ISOB's first report issued today has said.

The report warns against replicating police structures within a programme aimed at tackling the very issues that might arise from those same structures. 

Given the existing challenges black officers face when it comes to progressing up the ranks in policing, replicating the same structure in this programme means it’s harder for those officers to occupy the more senior roles within the programme.

The ISOB has outlined seven key areas for improving the programme, among which are introducing tangible success metrics, better admin support and resources for coordinators, and a clear communications strategy.

Today’s report has also touched on the programme’s relationship with the National Black Police Association of which there are around 5,000 members across the UK.

NBPA President Andy George said the organisation had to “push to be involved” in the programme but over time has had a greater input in its recruitment processes.

NBPA members have been brought into the programme to take up workstream coordinator and other equivalent roles.

“However, early into the Race Action team forming, a number of issues developed,” Chief Inspector George said.

“Members raised concerns about being described as ‘too challenging’ when they fed back on the Programme or tried to draw on their lived experiences. Promises of career development and training were unmet, and secondments were cut short.

“Over the course of the Programme, the NBPA has become more ostracised. Between October 2022 and January 2023 in particular, the NBPA states that its invitations to meetings have reduced and it has received fewer updates between Programme Board meetings.”

An NPBA Cabinet member has been assigned to each workstream in the last few months, while Ch Insp George says the new NPCC Chair, Chief Constable Gavin Stephens, has shown a willingness to “transform the culture of the programme”.

He has called for better support and resourcing for the NBPA to assist with the plan.

Meanwhile, the ISOB Chair Abimbola Johnson says some forces “have demonstrated a real and very public determination to deliver on the commitments outlined in the Plan”.

By way of example, she has cited Thames Valley Police where a local Race Action Plan structure - complete with their own independent chair of a localised ISOB - has been established.

The Chair has also stressed that the Met is key to the plan, particularly given its national portfolios. However, local implementation in London “remains in its infancy”.

According to the ISOB, there are pros and cons to using seconded officers for the programme. One plus is that a range of people can be involved, something which “in turn strengthens local connections to the national vision when members return to their previous roles”.

However, as the plan is financed on an annual basis, secondments are also offered on one or two year terms. This leads to job insecurity for secondees.

Personnel changes including the replacement of some of the Chief Constables who had initially committed to the plan, as well as secondees being called back to their force, has created instability within the programme.

“For anti-racism work to embed properly, particularly work that centres on improving trust and confidence, consistency is important. Recruitment and vetting in policing is extraordinarily cumbersome which means that replacing staff can take a disproportionately long time.

“Vacancies in the Programme create gaps that lead to work being deprioritised and, in turn, delivery declines.”

The Programme Director, DCC Tyron Joyce, retired in May and the ISOB said the recruitment process for an Interim Director was under way at the time of writing the report. DCC Joyce had been the programme’s third Director.

It is not only the rank hierarchy that is causing difficulties for the work being undertaken, the ISOB has said, with tensions between a national programme and the operational independence of forces adding to this tricky landscape.

Ms Johnson said: “It is in effect 44 [including BTP] different local programmes of work that need equal and considered delivery by every police force across England and Wales in order to be truly successful.

“More broadly, there is a lack of alignment between the goals of the Plan and that of the Home Office. Although representatives from the Home Office sit on the Programme Board for the Plan, the programme is not in receipt of any funding from central government.”

Funding for the programme comes entirely from contributions from each of the 44 forces.

“The advantage of this is that it provides policing with an opportunity to demonstrate a true commitment to antiracism. Should this Programme deliver its aims, policing will be able to say that it became anti-racist simply because it is the right thing to do, without threat of penalty or punishment for failure.

“The other side of this lack of government oversight however is the absence of ‘stick’ in the Programme. It relies on the individual commitment of the 44 individual forces to implement the Programme.”

CC Stephens has committed to reconsidering both the structure and resourcing within the programme.

Leave a Comment
View Comments 9
In Other News
Briefing room: notes from the Black Police Association conference
New programme director for Race Action Plan
NBPA Chair 'moves away' from race action plans as DCC lead retires
Commitment to the Race Action Plan is inconsistent says scrutiny Chair
Interview: Race Action Plan update
More News