British police oppose positive discrimination for ethnic minorities

Christien PhebyContent Manager
June 22, 2020, 12:22 PM UTC

YouGov Profiles data also reveals that 55% of officers think human rights laws have been bad for criminal justice – and the same proportion think the system is “much too soft”

Anti-racism demonstrations have raised serious questions about Britain’s police force in recent weeks. There have been concerns about allegedly heavy-handed practices, the relationship between law enforcement and ethnic minorities, and low levels of diversity within the force itself. Patricia Gallan – a former assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan Police and the highest-ranking black woman in the history of the service – recently suggested that institutional prejudice and discrimination had stymied her career

Data from YouGov Profiles may reinforce these concerns. When asked if they believe stereotypes about other groups of people are usually true, two in five (41%) policing professionals agree that they are, compared to just a quarter of the general public (26%).

While a similar proportion (41%) disagree, they’re less likely to do so than the wider population (46%).

Two-thirds of police are against positive discrimination for ethnic minorities, while half oppose positive discrimination for women

The officers in our sample – encompassing police of constable rank up to chief superintendent – also overwhelmingly oppose positive discrimination to ensure equal representation for ethnic minority groups.

Two-thirds (65%) disagree with the practice compared to 36% of the public, and just a quarter support it (26%) compared to two in five Brits (39%). Police appear to be more sympathetic to positive gender discrimination for female employees: while half are opposed (48%) a third (34%) are in favour.

More broadly, our evidence suggests that police are slightly more likely to favour social homogeneity. Three-quarters (74%) favour tighter restrictions on immigration compared to 69% of Brits, and while 46% of officers think multiculturalism is a positive force, four in ten (41%) are opposed – compared to a third (34%) of the public.

More than half of police think the system is “much too soft”

Recent controversies around the use of “stop and search” powers and stun guns against BAME people have added fuel to a longstanding conversation around human rights in British law enforcement. YouGov data shows that police are more likely to favour a punitive approach to justice – and that if they have a duty to uphold human rights, they don’t necessarily like human rights laws.

Over half (55%) of officers think these rules have been bad for our justice system, compared to 37% who see them as a force for good. This is again out of step with the public: a plurality (46%) of Brits view human rights laws positively compared to a third (35%) who see them negatively.

On the subject of criminal justice, three-quarters (74%) believe prison should ultimately be about punishment rather than rehabilitation, compared to 52% of Brits overall. And while they’re closer to the public on whether or not the justice system is too soft (78% vs. 73% of the public), they’re far more likely to say it’s “much too soft” (55% vs. 42% of the public).

Image: This is a cropped version of "Met Police AGW" by kenjonbro. Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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