No reserve seat for you

July 12, 2007

This article concerns the policy of offering reserve Police Federation seats to Women Colleagues within the Police federation of England and Wales. It is noted that the same opportunity is not provided for ethnic minority colleagues of colour.

It is also noted that the Federation wish to boost the number of minority ethnic representatives within it’s boards to give better representation. It is noted that and that as recently as the end of last year, (2006), a discussion took place at the highest levels with Jan Berry but from the minutes of the meeting no one present raised the issue of Federation reserve seats. This is a problem of poor representation of minority staff issues or a lack of understanding. How can one understand what one does not experience?

It is understood that the Federation are allowed to accommodate the reserve seats for female colleagues as a result of legislation provided within the Sex Discrimination Legislation. Female colleagues have had this privileged position for some years now.

It is understood also that the Federation pushed for similar amendments to legislation recently to allow a similar position for minority ethnic colleagues, but these were rejected by the Labour Government. Whilst this is a positive stance on behalf of the Federation it is a rather meaningless failure and an unacceptable and racist position. Currently there is disparity in opportunity, a discrimination. Women colleagues as an under represented group by right are given some positive access so that they may have some influence in bringing issues that affect them within the core of Federation business. Minority ethnic colleagues are not given the same right.

Walking away is not the answer to race equality. I feel this core disparity provides a reason as to why Black officers cannot sit as representatives within the Federation system. This core disparity also means that race issues will be under represented, note above meeting, within the Federation movement because of the difficulties of challenging structures and a democracy.

This disparity means that the Police Federation of England and Wales, within it’s current policy of reserve seats is supporting one under represented group and not supporting the other group. In essence a group associated with colour or race is not given the same rights as another under represented group.

This highlights an unfair and unlawful two-tier policy of recruitment. This is a valid example of institutional racism within the Federation itself in 2007. It is semantics as to whether the current position is direct or indirect discrimination on the grounds of race.

The current two tier system means that female colleagues do not have to face the barrier of competing with other colleagues, where as Black colleagues have to compete with other colleagues and in a democratic system where the majority are White the success rate of individual minority ethnic candidates that stand for election might be disproportionately affected by the ethnicity of those casting votes.

Without change from the centre in aligning gender and ethnicity the message this sends out is that gender is debatable and allowed into the Federation debate, but race is less important. Currently where issues of terrorism, immigration, racial incidents, murders, gun crime and knife crime are relevant it is fundamental that his position is changed. The Federation does have an opportunity to right a wrong is showing through leadership that institutionally racist practices can be challenged and corrected nationally without a legislation change and the Federation owes this to the serving minority ethnic colleagues of the Police Service of England and Wales.

Some minority ethnic colleagues have a wealth of untapped understanding and experience to offer the debate. Alternatively the Federation can do what the Police Service is good at, talk a good shop in relation to institutional racism, but then actually do nothing about it.


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