70% of BAME police staff say they have been racially abused on job, exclusive ITV News survey finds

  • Video report by International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar

Nearly 70% of BAME police staff say they have suffered racist abuse from the public while carrying out their job, an exclusive ITV News survey has revealed.

The survey of 238 serving black and minority ethnic police staff also found that 45% said they had been racially abused by BAME members of the public.

The figures are believed to be the first which indicate the levels of racism felt by police staff and highlight the shocking levels of abuse they can face.

Reacting to the figures, policing minister Kit Malthouse described them as "alarming" and said racism has no place in the country.

Despite the saddening statistics on race, most police do not believe racism is worse now than when they started, with 41% saying it had worsened compared to 59% who said it had not.

Most officers also believe progress has been made since the 1999 Macpherson report which labelled the police as “institutionally racist”.

Around 65% believe progress had been made, in comparison to 35% who did not.

Those who took part in the survey rank from constable to chief officers, with some officers having more than 30 years experience in the force.

What is the reaction?

Michael Fuller, the UK's most senior BAME police officer when he was chief constable of Kent Police, described the figures as "shocking" and said he would have thought "in the 21st century we'd have grown out of overt racism".

"We've had lots of reports that have come out with sound recommendations on how to tackle issues on inequality, in policing or justice system," he said.

"Having looked at the problems and coming up with recommendations, we still haven't seen them implemented.

"That makes people disillusioned.

"Police forces need retention strategies.

"They put a lot of effort into recruitment but if they don't put even more of an effort into retention, the BAME staff won't stay."

He spoke of a need for "real political commitment" and said "the person at the top, politician or chief executive sets the tone".

"When I did it in Kent, I was totally uncompromising in tackling racism," he said.

"People would report it to me because they knew I would deal with it."

Mr Fuller, who served as a frontline officer for the Metropolitan Police during the Brixton riots, added: “I was with a group of some 30 officers and I was singled out by the crowd who shouted ‘kill the black one first'.

“I then heard a smash of glass, and I was behind a riot shield at the time alongside a colleague and having heard this smash of glass, I heard petrol fumes and then three were flames which shot up in front and behind the shield.

“And that was very frightening for both of us. And i was in no doubt that if the crowd got a chance, they could try and kill me. It was a very frightening experience.”

'It does wear you down, of course it does'

Raj Kohli, who joined the police force in the early 90s and is now a Chief Superintendent in the Met, said he has even been abused by people from his own community.

"I have faced racism in the streets in uniform at every single rank I have been at," he said.

"I'm either Bin Laden, the turbanator, a traitor, I've been accused of targeting Asians because I want promotion.

"It does wear you down, of course it does, sometimes you just think 'I'm trying to do my best here' and my own community are calling me a traitor."

Keisha Shokunbi said she has at times "felt out of place".

"I've never experienced overt racism in the organisation, on the contrary I have had very supportive supervisors and have worked with some amazing people," she said.

"So I've never really experienced anything myself although there may be times, especially when I first joined, that I felt... maybe out of place."

She added: "To be honest, some people may leave (the force), people come and go.

"I think you need to be resilient, strong.

"If you want there to be change, if you leave, you're just saying, you've won.

"I don't think leaving the force is the answer, it's about staying and trying to fight for change."

Keisha Shokunbi said she has at times 'felt out of place'. Credit: ITV News

Tola Munro, president of the National Black Police Association, said the data is important because "racism is nuanced and complex".

"It helps our police leaders understand that these issues are here and it helps them talking about it when it comes to recruiting," he said.

"They can now understand without experiencing it."

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said: “These are very alarming figures.

"Racism has no place in our country and we will not tolerate it.

"Make no mistake, anyone who joins the policing family will have our full support and protection, and the respect of all right thinking British people.

"Our campaign to recruit 20,000 additional officers now provides us with a once in a generation opportunity to diversify the police to better reflect the communities they serve and we are all committed to that goal.

"Joining the police is an chance for people from all backgrounds to serve and protect their neighbours.

"So if you want to see change in policing, then I’d urge you to apply and make your difference."