The head of Avon and Somerset Police has concluded that her force is ‘institutionally racist’.
Chief constable Sarah Crew examined her force and their performance based on the criteria set out by Baroness Casey in her review of the Metropolitan Police. Crew was also the peer to investigate the Met’s performance after serving officer Wayne Couzens murdered Sarah Everard in 2021.
The Casey Review sets out four criteria on institutional racism. (i) that “there are racists – and people with racist attitudes – within the organisation”; (ii) staff from ethnic minorities backgrounds experience racism at work, and it is routinely dismissed; (iii) “racism and racial bias are reinforced within systems”; and (iv) under-protection and over-policing of black people.
Based on these tests, Crew found her force guilty of institutional racism. ‘I must accept that the definition fits – it does for race’, she stated. ‘I think it’s likely to for misogyny, homophobia and disability as well, though the gaps in the data don’t give us the sense of scale, impact or certainty that we have for race.’
The force’s police federation claimed that the picture painted from her investigation was a ‘false narrative’. The federation believe that these claims will do more harm than good, create a divide between officers and communities, and that there needs to be clear and relevant evidence to back Crew’s findings. ‘If accusations of “institutional racism” are levelled against institutions, these should – like any other serious accusation – be subject to robust assessment and evidence.”
Crew stated there was ‘real data’ to back up her conclusion, including that black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the force. In addition, she wanted to make it very clear that she is not trying to insult the character of those who work in the police force. Instead, she is trying to combat the ‘structural and institutional barriers’ that work to put some at a greater disadvantage than others because of their race.
James Oluoch-Olunya, chair of the force’s Race Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage (Reach) group, claimed that Crew’s findings were a ‘first step’. ‘It’s an important acknowledgment of people’s lived experience and all of the pain and suffering – it is starting the conversation from an honest place and we can’t fix a problem unless we acknowledge it,’ he said. He also states that organisationally speaking, the culture of a group reflects the worst behaviour that the group is willing to tolerate, and ‘giving multiple passes’ perpetuates that behaviour.