Call it out: “Racist behaviour persists when we do nothing about it”
As the world reels from the death of George Floyd, Simon Bullock, Chair of the Dorset Police BAME Staff Support Network and Chief Executive of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, argues that despite the significant differences in UK policing, there are some comparisons that might be made.
Cities have been burning in America and people on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as the debate, are angry. Justifiably so in some cases.
Policing is not an agent of social change, and its direction is set by a plethora of legislative and executive governance – namely the government, chief constables and police and crime commissioners (and their equivalents).
Policing is a reflection of society – with all its faults – but because of the higher professional standards that officers are held to, because of the declarations they make when attesting, and because of the inherent legitimacy of policing by consent, it is fair to argue that officers are, overall, the best of the public.
We also know that whilst the UK is not the US, that racism knows no boundaries, and therefore we should not be too quick to dismiss events there out of hand, without acknowledging the strength of feeling and the impact these have on our own citizens. Thousands of people gathered in cities across the UK to show solidarity, following the appalling and deplorable death of George Floyd.
Whilst history has too many of these sickening moments, we must attempt to use them as a catalyst for change. Poor behaviour persists where it is permitted to do so. Our opportunity, therefore, is to stem it.
If we dismiss the use of racial epithets as workplace banter, or neglect to record hearing an arrestee racially abuse a BAME colleague, or dismiss a colleague’s concerns as ‘playing the race card’ without trying to understand those concerns in a meaningful way, then we are complicit in that racist behaviour.
Racist behaviour like this happens every day across our forces. It persists when we do nothing about it. Whilst this is an uncomfortable thought, imagine for a moment the impact each one of those incidents has on its recipient.
As a service we pride ourselves on running towards danger. We surely are up for the challenge of calling out prejudicial behaviour wherever we see it.
If we fail to use whatever platform we have to challenge injustices, then we are no different than the three former Minneapolis officers present on scene when their colleague knelt on the neck of George Floyd.
We are surely better than that.