Two appalling examples of lack of diversity in our public services

Before anyone mentions it, yes, I do know that the Liberal Democrats’ parliamentary gender balance is horrendous everywhere except Wales and Europe,the latter being because we only have one MEP. Stuff must be done to resolve this, but that’s not the point of this post.

This week, two examples of lack of diversity in our public services have come to light. The first has been revealed by the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Only 1% of Scotland’s Police Officers identify as coming from a BAME background – and none make it to the highest grades in the force.

Figures obtained using freedom of information laws found that – despite 7.6 percent of Scotland’s population being BAME – there are no BAME officers in the top two ranks and only two across the top four ranks held by the 446 most senior officers in Scotland.

In total, there are only 175 BAME officers out of a total 17,515 police officers.

Figures for police staff showed that there are no BAME in the top five grades, and only 69 out of 5963 staff overall.

Commenting, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP said:

These are appalling figures which are in no way reflective of the diverse nature of Scotland’s population.

Only 1 percent of all officers are from BAME backgrounds. It is the same for police staff. There are only two BAME officers across the top four ranks held by the 446 most senior officers in Scotland.

This is  a travesty which warrants immediate action from Police Scotland and the Scottish Government. Only recently an SPF submission to a Holyrood committee found members felt that Police Scotland paid “lip service” to BME issues.

It is worrying that some officers believed they received better support in legacy forces because it was easier to interact with senior officers. The centralised nature of the new force will only compound these problems.

Scottish Liberal Democrats urge both Police Scotland and the Scottish Government to set out how they propose to address the woeful representation of communities in our police force.

The second example comes from the English judiciary, where figures reveal that  Why is this a bad thing? Everyday Sexism’s Laura Bates writes in the Guardian:

According to an analysis of more than 1m court records carried out by the Guardian in 2011, black offenders were 44% more likely than white offenders to be sentenced to prison for driving offences, 38% more likely to be imprisoned for public disorder or possession of a weapon, and 27% more likely to be imprisoned for drugs possession. Asian offenders were 41% more likely to be sent to prison for drugs offences than their white counterparts and 19% more likely to go to jail for shoplifting.

A pale, stale, male-dominated legal system also throws up questions given the number of recent cases where members of the judiciary have seemed to suggest victims of rape and violence are partially responsible for their own assault. In February this year, a judge sentencing two men for raping an 18-year-old student said: “Your victim was very unwise to allow herself to drink so much that she became so thoroughly inebriated.” He then described her as “extremely foolish”, before adding: “She became so drunk that she was vulnerable and defenceless to your exploitation.”

It is worrying that in the second decade of the 21st century, the enforcers of the law are so dominated by white, rich men. We can’t continue to move forward at the current rate which makes your average snail look like Usain Bolt.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Given that most senior police officers will have been in place for perhaps 30 years, comparing the percentage of senior BAME officers now with the general BAME populace now doesn’t give a true indication of the problem. If very few BAME persons entered the police 30 years ago, then there will not be the BAME officers in place 30 years later to promote to senior positions. So all that would do is tell you you’ve got a historic problem rather than a current one.

    The better comparison would be to compare the percentage of BAME senior officers now with the percentage of BAME entrants 30 years ago, and look at the relative drop out rates in the interim.

  • According to the 2011 census, the total population of Scotland was 5,295,403. The total self-identifying as white was 5,084,407 leaving only 210,996 or 3.98% self-identifying in any other way. In the 2001 census the equivalent figure was 2.01%. In that context, the 7.6% quoted has the appearance of being a grossly inflated figure. There may be an issue about today’s police staffing that reflects historical recruitment policies dating from the time of the LibDem – Labour coalition but over-egging the pudding like this just needlessly undermines the argument.

    Meanwhile, Scottish Liberal Democrats showed how much they care about diversity by deselecting their only woman MSP, Alison McInnes (yes, the one quoted in the post!), from the top of the North East regional list. Since the only realistic way for Lib Dems to get elected on the Scottish mainland is to be top of a regional list (and even then, election is far from certain), they have effectively told her that her services will no longer be required after 2016 and that they think a white man can do her job better!

  • John Tilley 8th Aug '15 - 8:57am

    I may be wrong but is it not the case that the BAME populations in Scotland tend to be limited to to particular localities?

    So for example I think the 2011 census indicated that half of Scotland ‘s Muslims live in Glasgow.
    More than half of the Jewish population of all of Scotland is resident in just one parliamentary constituency.
    Similarly in Glasgow there are 4 Gurdwaras which is more than half of all Scotland’s total for the Sikh population.

    Until recently policing in Scotland was divided into lots of separate and distinct Police forces so whilst one might expect a significant number of BAME recruits in Glasgow – some other areas north of the border might have been hard put to recruit many Sikhs, Muslms or Jews to the force.

    There is more to this diversity lark than straight statistics, however accurate they might be.
    I may be saying something similar toTCO (always a dangerous thing to do) except that he may be wrong with his numbers – surely after 30 years most police officers have retired? 🙂

  • Simon McGrath 8th Aug '15 - 10:27am

    @Gareth Epps ” Since the needless and counterproductive deselection of Alison “. Odd that someone who puts himself forward as the champion of party members against the ‘establishment’ should make such a comment. Given the overwhelming advantages of incumbency there must have been some serious issues in Scotland for members not to vote for her top of the list. Do you know what they were – and why do you think they were wrong ?

  • These sentencing statistics for England are truly shocking. I hope Alastair Carmichael will pick this up as a civil liberties campaigning issue.

  • Simon Banks 9th Aug '15 - 9:12am

    Serious points: while BAME and white are mutually exclusive categories, minority ethnic and white are not. But TCO has a fair point and it shows the need to be cautious about comparisons. Another example is when the BAME share of very senior staff (directors, hospital consultants, head teachers and so on) is compared with the population of a city, but clearly unlike lower grade staff the catchment area for appointments to these posts is much wider, the whole region or even whole country. However, in both cases the comparison is useful because it points to an imbalance and this is particularly important with policing. So positive action (NOT positive discrimination: encouraging likely people to go for top jobs or on helpful courses, not failing to appoint the best candidate to the job) is appropriate.

    Less serious point: Caron’s excepting of our MEP representation from her strictures about gender balance is quite unjustified. The male representation amongst our MEPs is 0%.

  • Surely our gender balance is horrendous in Europe? You cant get any less balanced than 0% – 100%.

  • Peter Watson 10th Aug '15 - 8:01am

    Since the party’s gender balance in the european parliament will only be either 0% or 100% (sadly) I think Caron was excusing it because it is irrelevant rather than a failure of diversity,
    However, even before the 2015 election, Lib Dems usually seemed less diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, social background, religion, disability, etc. than any other major party, including the Tories (and even UKIP compared favourably on some measures). I think the party has a lot to do, putting its own house in order before it can criticise other organisations without appearing to preach a condescending message of “do as we say, not as we do”.

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