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Police need better vetting for attitudes towards women and ethnic minorities, argues Bishop Jones

18 February 2022

Alamy

Lamp posts outside Charing Cross Police Station last week

Lamp posts outside Charing Cross Police Station last week

CANDIDATES for the police force should be vetted for their attitudes towards women and ethnic minorities, Bishop James Jones has said.

Bishop Jones, whose report on the 1989 Hillsborough disaster led to a public inquiry into the police, told the Church Times: “A candidate’s values ought to be examined, as well as their skills.” Examples were “respect for women” and minorities, as opposed to “latent homophobia . . . latent racism”. He said: “If you don’t do that, you can’t be surprised if those values later emerge.”

A former Bishop for Prisons, Bishop Jones was speaking after the resignation of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, on 10 February after a series of scandals, including revelations of racism, misogyny, bullying, and homophobia at Charing Cross Police Station. While the Met’s record has faced particular scrutiny, the issues found at Charing Cross affect other forces to varying degrees.

Bishop Jones also repeated his call, made earlier this month (News, 4 February), for a Royal Commission to consider thoroughly what is needed from policing in the 21st century. Officers, he said, should have a “duty of candour” and good emotional intelligence.

Bishop Jones, who retired as Bishop of Liverpool in 2013, also called for the Public Records Act to be amended to include police records: otherwise “the Chief Constable could destroy those records at will,” he said. The experience of Hillsborough families and others since who had tried to find out what had happened to their loved ones was that “the institution becomes very obstructive, closes ranks.”

AlamyThe former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, who resigned last week, pictured in September

The National Police Chaplain, Canon David Wilbraham, has said that police forces are working hard to address issues of “diversity, equality and inclusion”. He told the Church Times: “I’m not saying for one minute that the shop has now been cleaned, but a lot of these issues are very high on the agenda of policing and have been for the last couple of years.”

In both national police bodies and individual police forces, police chaplains often sit on boards and groups aimed at addressing issues linked to “race, alongside other aspects of diversity, equality and inclusion”, such as recruitment, Canon Wilbraham said.

There are 470 police chaplains in Britain, and all 43 police forces in England and Wales have a lead chaplain and a team of volunteer police chaplains.

Canon Wilbraham said that police chaplains would be prepared to draw attention to behaviour that they had concerns about, albeit in a “gentle, influencing way, rather than an aggressive, whistle-blowing way”. Because chaplains were outside the career structure and did not have an agenda, “chiefs and area commanders welcome the insights [they] can bring,” he said.

Asked what culture change was needed in the police, Canon Wilbraham said: “Acceptance of everyone, regardless of who they are. . . treating people with fairness, respect, and integrity, and being perhaps especially mindful about where people do have a protected characteristic [as outlined in the 2010 Equality Act, such as] faith or disability, that aren’t as obvious.”

He said that chaplains could help to achieve this change “by modelling that, and in their very willing, positive acceptance of everyone and supporting and serving everyone, having that on show within a multifaith team. Modelling that has led to the success of chaplaincy in many forces.”

Officers could speak to a chaplain of their own faith, but sometimes they opted for one of another faith, if there were “strong family links” between the chaplain with whom they shared a faith and the faith community concerned.

Read comment on the story from Angela Tilby

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