Merseyside Police respond after ‘institutionally racist’ branding

Serena Kennedy has released a statement on behalf of Merseyside Police after the force was branded "institutionally racist" by local Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Emily Spurrell. Ms Spurrell, who was elected in May 2021, said that while the "vast majority" of officers were "incredibly dedicated" and "not racist" - the institution had been "designed by a certain group of people" and "did not take into account" the experiences of black and ethnic minority people. Merseyside Police's Chief Constable, Serena Kennedy, flatly denied the force was institutionally racist, while Merseyside Police Federation, representing rank and file officers, said Ms Spurrell's comments were "deeply disappointing". Ms Spurrell made the comments in a discussion with Policing TV reporter Danny Shaw, who asked: "Do you accept that Merseyside Police is institutionally racist?"

: Merseyside Police 'institutionally racist' says crime commissioner Emily Spurrell She replied: "I do. I do.

And I've had this conversation with my Chief [Serena Kennedy]. Because I think when you look at the definition of institutional racism, it is not about individual officers. I know that Mersesyide Police, absolutely, the vast majority are incredibly dedicated, not racist, you know, to me, they are absolutely committed to serving the public, whoever they are.

"And quite often will go out of their way to engage with communities, from minority backgrounds. So the definition of institutional racism is not about calling individual officers racist, it's about saying, as an institution, like with lots of institutions across the country, it has been designed by a certain group of people, and it does not take into account how, you know, black and ethnic minority people might experience things and how they might get treated." The comments came as part of a discussion involving Ms Spurrell, Dorset PCC David Sedwick and Hertfordshire PCC David Lloyd about various subjects around policing, including efforts to tackle institutional racism.

Both Mr Lloyd and Mr Sedwick said they did not think their respective police forces were institutionally racist. Today Chief Constable Kennedy responded to Ms Spurrell's comments on behalf of the force, she said: "I categorically do not believe that Merseyside Police is institutionally racist. The history and impact of racism across policing and the harm this has caused to communities and colleagues is clear.

"There has been a lot of work done nationally and locally to understand and address this. We know that policing, like society, is not free of racial discrimination, bias and disproportionality. It still exists in some policies and processes, and we are taking action to change this.

"We collectively want to improve, we want to progress, we want to be better. We are not institutionally racist. There has been a lot of work done to understand how we need to change, and progress has been made but we know we need to do more, and we are committed to this.

"The National Race Action Plan, developed by the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs' Council, through a dedicated programme of work, will be published imminently, which sets out the vision that policing will be actively anti-racist and the work needed to achieve this. We will build on what we have already been doing in Merseyside to deliver this plan. "Some of this includes the creation of an outreach team that works in the heart of our most diverse communities to build relationships and trust and working with our Merseyside Independent Advisory Group to capture the views and voices of our communities.

"I see every day how committed my officers and staff are to helping and protecting our communities and how they want to play an active part in ensuring we are anti-racist. We recognise that people across the organisation will have different views and experience and we will continue to encourage open debate and learning across the force so that we provide a policing service that is truly inclusive and anti-racist. "When I became Chief Constable in April 2021, I identified Community Engagement and Inclusion as key priorities for the force.

Over the last few months, I have been talking to officers and staff across the force and listening to their views on the proposed national Race Action Plan and I will be meeting with stakeholders and community representatives to discuss the detail of the plan as soon as it is published. "We will continue to constantly review and assess the way we work, to actively listen to communities and colleagues, and to work together to continue delivering a police service in Merseyside that puts our communities first." A spokesman for the Merseyside Police Federation said: "It is deeply disappointing to hear the Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell allege Merseyside Police is institutionally racist.

We refute this statement. "Our members serve Merseyside to the best of their ability, running towards danger to help members of the public during times of emergency. Our members serve a diverse community and are proud to do so."

When contacted by the ECHO about the interview, Ms Spurrell said in a statement: "If we are to truly tackle racism in our institutions, we must first acknowledge the scale of the issue. However we define it, racism and inequality permeate all our public institutions. "We can see that from the outcomes for black and ethnic minority people in all walks of life, whether that's disproportionality in stop searches, over-representation in our criminal justice system and prisons, or disparity in educational outcomes, employment opportunities and healthcare.

"Acknowledging structural racism absolutely doesn't mean our individual police officers and staff are racist. It means recognising that our systems and processes were designed by a certain group of people in a different time when the make-up of society was different. It means recognising some of those structures are out-dated and that they don't work for all our communities now.

"There's no doubt it is an uncomfortable, difficult conversation. However, I believe that by recognising it in this way, by admitting there are still problems, our communities will have more faith that we are committed to tackling it and changing for the better. "This is not to suggest we are still in the same place as when the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report was released in 1999.

A huge amount of progress has been made since that time. "But we must continue to be actively anti-racist if we are to win trust back, particularly among black communities. That means being open and honest, owning the problem, and taking proactive steps to redress the balance.

"Merseyside Police, under the leadership of the Chief Constable, has already taken significant steps to tackle disproportionality. That includes ensuring officers and staff are more representative of the communities they serve, creating a dedicated Diversity Equality Inclusion team, reducing the disproportionality of stop searches and allowing public scrutiny of stop and search from body worn camera footage. "This is all positive work.

We are taking good strides in the right direction and I welcome the Chief Constable's commitment to go even further. I have scrutinised her on disproportionality at my Public Scrutiny Meeting and she has been unequivocal in her commitment to continuing to embed the right culture across Merseyside Police. "But we still live in an unequal society.

Policing is embedded in that society.

That means - like all walks of life and all institutions - we continue to battle issues with discrimination, with inequality and with disparity."