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Chief: 'Don't confuse positive action with positive discrimination'

CC Dee Collins spoke to Police Oracle during force's inclusivity conference
Published - 07/02/2018 By - Martin Buhagiar, in Wakefield

Inspirational speakers took to the stage to tell their stories during a conference focusing on inclusion.

Held at West Yorkshire Police’s development centre in Carr Gate, Wakefield, a number of speakers followed Chief Constable Dee Collins on stage to talk about subjects including disability, child birth, pregnancy loss, depression, domestic abuse and race.

How police forces deal with these issues when such incidents occur is improving and that is enabling them to be more representative of the communities they serve.

CC Collins told Police Oracle changing the culture to be inclusive of everyone is the long-term aim.

She said: “When I first arrived West Yorkshire had built a strong reputation for being a traditional force, quite an innovative force but also quite hierarchical.

“Getting the job done to the best of our ability was what motivated us as a force. It struck me that the organisation is only going to be as good as the people working within it.

“I’ve talked today about the skills, about the opportunities, about genuinely caring for one and another because if you do that as an organisation internally, you are much more likely to want to embrace and value difference in communities, have a sympathetic ear and genuinely show that you care about the communities you are working alongside. Because we have been law enforcers, we have not predominately built those relationships with communities in the past.”

In order to achieve that, the force plans to continuing recruiting officers from different communities throughout 2018.

CC Collins added: “We have got to make the opportunities available. West Yorkshire is a force that is going to continue to recruit over the next 12 months and that is for police officers, police staff and PCSO opportunities and then of course special constables and volunteers. There will be a number of different routes to enter the organisation which could suit people and their personal circumstances and the hours they want to work - whether they want to work part time and flexibly or indeed that voluntary role.

“As a force we have got to be really proactive at wanting to improve our under representation so we have appointed a positive action coordinator. We have been running that role for a couple of years now and we are also looking at recruiting two positive action ambassadors. Those three will form the hub of really going out into communities and highlighting the opportunities and the culture within the organisation.

“We have got to reach out to communities, build their confidence and trust as an organisation so they don’t mind their nearest and dearest working with us. This is against a background and history of us not always living up to that aspiration. It is 20 years since the Macpherson report (Stephen Lawrence enquiry) but what have we actually done to demonstrate to communities that we have moved forward as an organisation? I think we have moved forward in lot of aspects but what we haven’t seen is a number of people at the senior end of the organisation truly representing communities. That is partly why direct entry was brought in.”

CC Collins, a police officer for 30 years in a variety of uniformed operational roles, is also the president of the British Association for Women in Policing (BAWP). She says people should not fall into the trap of believing positive action is the same as positive discrimination.

She added: “From my perspective as chair of BAWP I can remember what the profile of women in policing was 30 years ago - it is significantly different now so change can happen.

“We are looking at it from every angle and while we have got some priority areas of which BAME is one, LGBT another, disability and women, if we are truly inclusive we are talking about that diversity in thinking and experience. So not just talking about physical characteristics because I want that rich picture. Equally we recently took on one of our eldest recruits, a guy who is in his 50s who came and joined us with a fantastic background and experience, based up in Leeds.

“This is all about creating the opportunities, encouraging people to step forward, people who may have had a reason previously not to. All we are doing is getting everybody in the same starting position to enable them to have the confidence to fill in the application form, to encourage people through mentoring and coaching if necessary - but you have still got to meet the standard.

“Those opportunities are still available for everyone. I think people previously misunderstood positive action as positive discrimination but that is not what we are talking about here at all. We are talking about people feeling able and supported to join the organisation.”

CC Collins is clearly committed to improving the diversity of the force to reflect the community it serves. She is also aware there is still work to be done while pushing the ‘gender agenda’.

“I am very proud of the work we have undertaken. BAWP has the most amazing committee members – all volunteers,” CC Collins says. “I am complementing what I do for BAWP with the work I’m now carrying out for the National Police Chiefs’ Council as the gender lead. We are bringing a lot of the issues into one space about what the next steps can be and what we need to do. What are the big issues?

“One that is coming fairly fast down the track for us is the formal reporting we have all got to do on our gender pay gap. All forces have got to report on that at the end of March and people will see a difference. It is going to be very difficult to explain to the public why these differences are there. It is not about being paid differently, it is about the opportunities you may choose to take in order to enhance your pay and so when the reports are released at the end of March I have already agreed that I will speak on behalf of the service to explain what that is about. What I am really trying to say here is, within the world of BAWP and the gender agenda there are still issues that we need to be able to talk through and explain.”

More than 300 guests attended the inclusion day.

Speakers included local champions from West Yorkshire Police, as well as inspirational men and women

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner opened the afternoon session. He said: “Inclusion is extremely important and pivotal to a strong and multi-talented organisation, so it’s fantastic to see BAWP once again hosting such a large event here in West Yorkshire.”

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