Policing on an international level was sadly thrown into the spotlight over the last month following the tragic death of George Floyd in the USA.
I’m sure most of you will have seen the shocking footage that emerged from Minneapolis which sparked protests across the globe, including here in Surrey. The policing of demonstrations must always be treated sensitively and never more so than when we are in the middle of a global pandemic.
Whilst I shared the rightful anger over what happened and completely respect people’s right to peaceful protest, I did make public my view that these gatherings should not have taken place at a time when the spread of the Covid-19 virus is still leading to serious illness and death in our communities.
I recognise the strong feelings recent events have evoked but violence on our streets is never acceptable. Thanks to the good sense of demonstrators and the efficient way the protests in Surrey have been policed, so far there have no public order issues in the county.
What the events of the last few weeks have done is focus minds in policing on what we are all doing to ensure equality both in the workplace and in the way we police our communities.
Racism and prejudice have no place in our society and I believe Surrey Police works really hard to ensure that culture is embedded in our organisation. During my four years as PCC, I have witnessed at close quarters a Force that strives to create a supportive and inclusive environment free from bias, discrimination or unfairness for staff, officers and volunteers and for those that show an interest in joining.
The Force has a dedicated Diversity Team and an Inclusion Board headed by the Deputy Chief Constable, which regularly meets to ensure the Force remains committed to creating a place to work where everyone is valued.
There are a variety of staff networks and services such as SPACE (Surrey Police Association for Culture and Ethnicity) that can raise any concerns on behalf of different groups or individuals and provide support to all who wish to use them.
All policies and practices are assessed to consider any impact on equality and there are also robust governance boards that review and monitor operational practices, exceptional trends and complaints.
I am a firm believer we should be representative of the communities we serve and Surrey Police has put great effort into attracting more applicants from BAME backgrounds. There is still a way to go but I’m proud of the progress we are making. I am keen that my office plays its part and as the national PCC lead for equality and diversity, this is a subject close to my heart.
My office has provided funding for Surrey Minority Ethnic Forum who seek to unify ethnic minority communities from across the county. Stop Hate UK this year made a contribution to the Stephen Lawrence Bursary, set up to support the professional development of BAME police officers and staff.
We have come a long way both in society and in policing since the murder of Stephen. I recognise that there is more to do but are confident that we have the structures and above all the leadership in Surrey to continue that progress.