Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120 - 139)



120.  Could you give us examples of any other ways that the culture in the force is changing?

  (Sir John Stevens) I think the culture is changing; it will take a lot of time, whether we are talking about the effects of post Lawrence, the effects of where we are with the way women are treated, and there is a massive amount of material that shows that women, over the years, in the Service, have been abominably treated. And we must not forget that diversity deals with every aspect, it deals with gender as well as dealing with race, as well as dealing with disability; and what we are doing now, and the Deputy and I are leading on this, is actually ensuring that diversity is going to be approached in all its aspects. And the way that you do that is by treating people properly, and the way you do it is by ensuring that people, when they have got concerns, those concerns are met; and that is more "in your face" leadership, if I might call it that. And we have got a long way to go to make sure that we have got the proportional representation that we need for the Service to represent the communities we police, and we must drive in with that.
  (Mr Blair) If I can mention, we have a pretty significant diversity strategy, called "Protect and Respect', and one of the key elements in that is the independent advisory groups that we use, in which, coming after the Lawrence inquiry, in relation to race, we invited some of our sternest critics into the organisation, to say, "How would you do it better?" and we have listened very carefully to them. We have advisory groups on sexual orientation issues, we have advisory groups in relation to Trident, most boroughs have advisory groups, and I think that whole process of opening up the culture to people who are coming at it from a different angle has been enormously helpful, and, for instance, it has provided us with advice, in recruitment terms, about mentoring. All minority ethnic recruits now are given, before they arrive, a mentor from the same community, and we look after that group for the first two years, we know when people leave the organisation most, which is between six and eight years, and again we come back and concentrate on them. There is a lot of activity going on, which I think is showing the Met as a changing working environment.
  (Sir John Stevens) If I may, the real worry for me, to carry on from what Ian said, is that there needs to be recognition of that, give credit where credit is due, is the expression I used a year and a half, two years, ago, on the moves and changes we are making. If you do not do that, you do not encourage people to go the full mile, and I do believe that there has to be some recognition made, we have got a long way to go, of course we have, of the changes that have been made in the last two years.

121.  Clause 60 of the Police Reform Bill proposes for the nationality requirement to be removed. What estimate have you made of the willingness of non-Commonwealth citizens to join the police?

  (Sir John Stevens) I think it is a very difficult issue, I think it is back again to having confidence to join. I think we have people in education, in the medical profession, who have come from similar backgrounds, why do we not have it in the police. Again, I think we have got to go out and sell ourselves; it is like the type of work we have been doing in the ethnic minorities, going round selling ourselves, in all sorts and kinds of areas, and I think we have got to do that in relation to the Commonwealth. But one thing is for sure, we must make sure we do not lower the quality of the people who join the Metropolitan Police; we have already been talking about auxiliaries and the full professional, who is fully trained, and the quality, and the quality is still there, there is no doubt about that, and we must maintain that quality, if we do not we let it reduce at our peril.

David Winnick

122.  What is the highest ranking black officer in the Met?

  (Sir John Stevens) Assistant Commissioner, who is Tarique Ghaffur, equivalent to a Chief Constable, who is Asian; and the highest black officer is Deputy Assistant Commissioner Fuller, who is the equivalent to a Deputy Chief Constable.

123.  Thank you. Would you know offhand, if not, perhaps you would send us a note, how many Chief Inspectors and above are black or Asian, as the case may be?

  (Sir John Stevens) If I could send you a note, Sir, on that; in fact, we will do a breakdown of all the different ranks.

124.  In broad terms; would any of your two colleagues know, in broad terms?

  (Mr Blair) I would not know the numbers, but it is actually quite significant.

125.  What do you call significant?

  (Mr Blair) I mean in the sense that you would have thought that there would not be many, but there are some, and the move is starting.

126.  Ten, 20, 30?

  (Mr Blair) I would think, something in the region of 15, would be my best guess. But we have got to remember, it is a bit like the whole issue about how do you get to the first woman Chief Constable; it takes 20 years to "grow" to that rank, and so whatever we are saying we are looking at the people who were recruited, say, at Chief Inspector level, we must be looking back 12 to 13 to 14 years, they cannot just emerge.

127.  So it is Chief Inspectors and above; you will send us a note?

  (Sir John Stevens) Definitely, yes.[4]

128.  When your predecessor, I am almost certain it was when he was due to retire, someone who joined the police force at the same time as Sir Paul, there were press stories regarding his time in the police, and he related, he happened to be black, the sorts of attitudes, prejudice, near hate, that he had to face at the time. I do not know whether, Sir John, you were aware of those stories which appeared. So when you talked about, and you were replying to the question from my colleague, Mrs Dean, the culture of the Metropolitan Police changing, would you say there has been such a significant change over those years that that sort of attitude would be totally alien now?

  (Sir John Stevens) You are talking about Detective Sergeant Roberts, who actually worked for me as a Detective Sergeant when I was a Detective Chief Inspector at Kentish Town, so I know those stories intimately, and he has related those to me over a drink, once or twice, in a pub. I think the circumstances of those stories were quite horrific, as to the way he has been dealt with. I would like to think that that would not happen now. But what I would say is, with a reasonable amount of certainty, that if those types of actions took place, in terms of what happened to Mr Roberts, which were physical, mental abuse, that we have a system now which would pick those up, either by whistle-blowing or by the kind of integrity tests we do, that we would take action on them. And, I can assure you, that type of behaviour can never, ever be accepted; because how he managed to find his way through and survive in the Service in those days says an awful lot for his moral and physical courage. Remember, he was the first black police officer that joined the Metropolitan Police, and the way he was treated was disgraceful.

129.  So are you reasonably confident, because it is often said the police reflect life itself, and obviously racism is well known outside the police, to say the least, that if someone joined the police force now, did his training, let us say the training period was without any mishaps, and went into whatever unit he was allocated, or she, as the case may be, that person, who did not have a white skin, would not be faced with racist remarks, of one kind or another, even if they were not so blatant as the person we were just referring to? How confident are you really, Commissioner?

  (Sir John Stevens) I am very confident. But remember this, just as we have talked about corruption and the need to keep our vigilance, in terms of corruption, we have to keep our vigilance when we talk about racism, sexism, and the like; and we know that there are still people in this organisation, mine, which I command, who are racist, and there are some who are sexist. And what you have to do is have a system that identifies them, or gives a very good chance of identifying them, whether it is corruption or otherwise, and if they are identified, out, we want them out.

130.  Yes, but I wonder how far, in practice, in actual practice, that occurs. What about the attitude, "Well, you know, so what, if he can't take that, what sort of a person is he;" how far is there any willingness to report, because it can be said informing on colleagues, and the rest of it, is distasteful? I am just wondering what actually happens in real life?

  (Sir John Stevens) I will take you through the amount of cases we have got in relation to that, or Ian can, because that is his part of the job. But let me tell you this. Years ago, and I have been in this business now for nearly 40 years, there is far more openness, far more accountability, far more willingness to ensure that actually that bad behaviour that took place 20 years, 30 years, 40 years ago does not take place now, by far, by far. And we will give you the number of cases, we have a whistle-blowing process that we use, and the discipline cases that are taking place, because it is Ian's responsibility.
  (Mr Blair) We are happy to supply you with those[5], Mr Winnick; but I think the two key statistics, for me, now, are that the vast majority of discipline cases that end up in prosecution, as it were, they are substantiated and end up in front of the Discipline Board, are not public complaints but officer report, and there is a very considerable amount of reporting by officers of bad behaviour, including racism and sexism. And the other thing to mention is that currently we have 1,200 visible ethnic minority police officers in London, which is bigger than many police forces; there is a police force the size of Wiltshire which is black and Asian inside London. We are not complacent and we have got to make far more effort and make things far more transparently welcoming. And clearly there will always be these causes céle"bres that turn up, but in comparison with just 25 years ago this is a completely different organisation.

131.  Mind you, that is not the best yardstick, considering what did happen 25 years ago and before. And what about, you referred to sexism, the sort of sexual innuendoes which one reads about, which has occurred, distasteful remarks relating to underwear, and the rest of it; can we work on the same basis, that such attitudes are so totally unacceptable that disciplinary action would follow?

  (Sir John Stevens) Absolutely; if people report such incidents, and they do,

132.  In practice?

  (Sir John Stevens) If those are reported then we will go through a disciplinary process. Talking about the disciplinary process, that is another thing that we welcome, in terms of the Reform Act. The disciplinary process that we have got in the Police Service goes back to the court martials process of 100 years ago; it is an absolutely arcane and bizarre process, and we have to have better processes of dealing with grievances. And what has come out of the Gurpal Virdi inquiry, which the Metropolitan Police Authority have actually undertaken, some of the valuable work that has come out of there is we have to have a far less rigid system of dealing with complaints, grievances of that nature and other natures. So this is a more generic kind of problem that we are talking about here. We have got to have a better way of dealing with it, rather than having a Chief Constable, as if in a court of law, with counsel for the defence, counsel for the prosecution, on something which may well end up with someone just being reprimanded.

133.  How more effective could the force be, if there were more police officers, men and women, apart from the fact, obviously, that those who engage in criminality, who do not happen to be white, could say, "It's racism directed against us;" if you had a larger number of police officers, would it not be much more effective in dealing with the sort of criminality which sometimes comes from minority groups?

  (Sir John Stevens) Absolutely. I have been saying that for two years, and Ian and all of us repeat this. The sooner we get the kind of proportion of ethnic minorities, women, that represents the communities we serve, the better; as soon as we get that then we are far more locked into the policing by consent, which is what this country is all about, and some of the things we were talking about earlier on, about the independence. And we are driving towards that, having tremendous success so far; that success, God willing, will continue. But we must make sure we get that, I agree, Sir.


134.  I have heard it suggested that retention rates for women are poor; is that still the case, or has it improved?

  (Mr Blair) Yes.
  (Sir John Stevens) Yes, they are; and I think that is another reason that we actually need far more research done on why women are leaving, as with the ethnic minorities. I think, Chairman, it is a matter that needs to be dealt with quite quickly and urgently, because, 16 per cent representation of women in a force, it should be far higher.
  (Mr Blair) You can actually see it on the chart; it seems to be the second child, that is the really key issue. And I think one of the things we are looking for, and we do welcome, in the Reform Bill, is the reduction of the minimum number of hours that you are required to work. It is very, very difficult to get childcare in the middle of the night.

135.  Yes; greater flexibility?

  (Mr Blair) Much greater flexibility.

David Winnick

136.  Like a police officer, occasionally, I forgot to ask a question. There is a Black Police Association. I am not quite sure of the title.

  (Sir John Stevens) Yes, the Black Police Association.

137.  In the latest discussions, presumably, you have ongoing discussions with that Association, are they more or less happy with the position as outlined today by you, Commissioner?

  (Sir John Stevens) We will just have to wait and see. There are 14 different associations in the Metropolitan Police representing ethnic minorities, Muslims included, Greeks, and so on and so forth, and we must remember that there are other associations. But I have been given a leadership challenge by the Commission for Racial Equality, and to carry that on I shall be seeing focus groups of 30 ethnic minority officers, women officers and those who are from the gay community. And what I will be doing is making sure that what we are doing in the organisation is actually representative of what their views are. So the Black Police Association is one of 14 associations now, and we must remember that, there are other associations as well.

138.  We may be seeing them at some stage. Thank you very much.

  (Sir John Stevens) Indeed, yes.


139.  Just going back to what Mr Blair was saying, I think it was Mr Blair, about the discipline process, I had thought we had improved it, and here you are telling me that it is just as bad as it always was?

  (Sir John Stevens) It was what I was saying, about the discipline process. I think it has got a long way to go, Chairman. I think the discipline process has improved. What happens is that, if a complaint is made, a grievance, for instance, or a complaint is made against a police officer or a member of the support staff, we get involved into a process which is incredibly legalistic, that actually does not deal with some of the aspects of grievances which can relate to face-to-face acceptance of a wrong. And once we get involved into that legalistic process it grinds on and on and on, and some of these cases take two to three to four years to come to fruition because of legalistic stances. Now that really does need to be changed, and I think there must be a better process of dealing with it than the way we do now.

4   See Appendix, Ev 107. Back

5   See Appendix, Ev 107. Back

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