West Yorkshire chief constable to be grilled by MPs on police diversity
A Yorkshire police chief constable is to be quizzed about diversity at her force, less than a year after describing the difficulties she faced in advancing the careers of female and ethnic minority officers.
Dee Collins, temporary chief constable at West Yorkshire Police, will appear in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday as part of an evidence session about the issue of police diversity.
In an interview with The Yorkshire Post last year, Miss Collins said her force was “not where I want it to be” in terms of ethnic diversity and faced challenges in allowing female officers to advance their careers in the face of dramatic budget cuts.
The select committee recently produced a report which highlighted the fact that none of the 43 police chief constables in England and Wales were from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background.
MPs called for more to be done to improve diversity among the senior ranks of the nation’s police forces, and claimed that in the majority of recent cases the chief constable’s job was given to the deputy chief constable from the same force.
Across the chief officer ranks at Yorkshire’s four police forces, there are no officers from ethnic minority backgrounds, though two of the chief constables are women as well as one deputy chief constable and two assistant chief constables.
Miss Collins will be appearing in front of MPs alongside Dave Thompson, chief constable at West Midlands Police.
She has been temporary chief constable at West Yorkshire Police since June 2014, when predecessor Mark Gilmore was suspended amid a criminal investigation in his native Northern Ireland.
Mr Gilmore was one of several officers who faced claims including bribery, misconduct in public office and procuring misconduct in public office. He was told last April that he would not face prosecution over the claims and had his suspension lifted by police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson.
But he he has not returned to the force and has since been working on a “transition project” for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, while a separate conduct investigation is carried out by Lancashire Police.
Last year, Miss Collins spoke of the difficulty in progressing the careers of female officers in the face of a recruitment freeze that has seen the force lose hundreds of officers over five years.
With the chances of promotion for men and women limited, Miss Collins, who is president of the British Association of Women in Policing, admitted the desire to see more women in senior positions had to be set against other considerations.
She added that the force was “not where I want it to be” on the issue of ethnic diversity. The Yorkshire Post revealed in 2014 that just three per cent of officers at inspector level or above were non-white, despite more than 18 per cent of the county’s population not being white, and a third of all residents in Bradford.
Since then, a better-than-expected funding settlement in last year’s Autumn statement has meant West Yorkshire Police, like its counterparts in the region, has been able to recruit from the general public for the first time in five years.
Announcing the move in February, crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said: “It will also enable real opportunities to increase the diversity of the workforce to better reflect the communities of West Yorkshire that we serve.”