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South Wales Police makes bold moves to recruit a more ethnically diverse workforce to represent the communities it serves.

An initiative by the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, backed by the Chief Constable, sets out to bring about positive change in the officers and staff of South Wales Police to represent the communities it serves.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, spoke in October at the National Black Police Association Conference of the low numbers of black and ethnic minority (BME) officers within the police service. She said: “If police forces do not truly represent the people they serve, if they are not made up of men and women of all backgrounds, if they do not properly reflect the communities where local officers police, then we cannot truly say the police are the public, and the public are the police”.

An initiative by the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, backed by the Chief Constable, has already set out to bring about that positive change in the officers and staff of South Wales Police.

In South Wales 6.7% of the population are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, but currently only 2.1% of South Wales Police officers are from these backgrounds. A recently-launched scheme aims to change this and create a policing tradition within some of the lesser-represented communities, where future generations grow up with aspirations to join the police having seen positive, strong role models.

Early 2015 saw the conclusion of a South Wales Police and Police and Crime Commissioner joint thematic review into BME Recruitment and Progression. This led to the development of the South Wales Police Action Plan for BME Recruitment, Progression and Retention. In April the Representative Workforce Team was set up to look at how this could be achieved and to kick off the project. Six months later, the force has seen a rise in applications from 2.1% in previous campaigns to over 5% from BME backgrounds.

In October, 40 Black and Minority Ethnic candidates started a 23-week Certificate of Knowledge in Policing course, which is being bursary-funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable. The Certificate is a national qualification based on an extensive syllabus including elements of the law, police procedures, general police duties and crime specific definitions, aiming to equip potential candidates with relevant knowledge to start a career in the police service.

Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, Alun Michael said:

“Our communities have told us about reluctance for BME people to consider policing as a career for a number of different reasons – including the fact that currently they see very few BME role models in the police service itself. Unless BME people in our communities see more racial diversity amongst our officers, this will be a vicious circle that we cannot break. We will not accept that as part of our future.

“Our decision to provide a bursary for the Certificate of Knowledge in Policing to applicants from BME backgrounds is a bold one and one that we hope will encourage more people to think about a career with South Wales Police. We are aware that the financial implications of seeking this qualification can deter people from lesser represented backgrounds, and that’s why we are taking positive action in order to remove barriers that may stand in their way.”

Having the Certificate does not guarantee a job with the police, but it is a prerequisite for the application process. When recruitment for police officers opens next year, those who have this qualification will be able to apply, so at least the pool of candidates will be more representative than it has been in the past.

Assistant Chief Constable Jon Stratford said:

“I strongly support this approach, and we are also helping would-be applicants through a mentoring programme. I’m pleased that so many of our officers and staff have volunteered to help in that process because it’s all about helping people to be the high calibre and well-prepared candidates that we are looking for to join South Wales Police. By investing now to increase our representation, we aim to develop a proud policing tradition within all communities and improve community relations. A career with the police service is rewarding and challenging and there are many different opportunities for personal and professional development and progression”.

The strategy put in place by South Wales Police is to attract, recruit and retain police officers from a broad range of communities. Emphasis is currently attracting and supporting potential candidates and outreach events have taken place in more than 30 locations in the last 6 months. Candidates are allocated a Development Champion from within the force as soon as they show interest in joining, and these champions are experienced members of staff who provide support during the application and interview preparation process. The force currently has a number of recruitment campaigns running and has a forward plan for the next five years.

Charles Lan, who was born in Beijing, was one of the first successful applicants to come through the mentoring process under this new approach and has just started as a PCSO in Swansea.

“It’s a job with a purpose and has a real meaning. Charles explained. “Today we live in a multicultural society and I can help the police better engage in that diverse community. I know how to interact with people from certain other ethnic backgrounds.

“I think if a police officer is from a similar background, the people in that community might not fear the police.”

If you are interested in finding out more information about the support that South Wales Police are offering, please email: joinus@south-wales.pnn.police.uk