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Diversity, Equality and Inclusion in Police Leadership: PART 1

Police diversity, equality and inclusion

Police forces across the UK, like all public sector organisations, are focused on how to eliminate any inadvertent discrimination in their assessment and selection processes. This includes active promotion of diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI). This three-part blog will discuss these concepts to help make them meaningful to you as part of your leadership CPD, giving you a grounding and providing essential reading on the subject. We will also explore exciting recent developments in some UK police promotion processes. For example, the introduction of an additional ‘pre board’ interview consisting of specific DEI questions among the myriad of UK promotion processes. This initial interview requires candidates to be prepared to discuss questions around DEI scenarios, topics and issues prior to the main promotion board or interview.

“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” – Malcolm Forbes

My main aim as police promotion and leadership coach/mentor is to support you as an aspiring leadership candidate. Part of this involves keeping you informed on current issues to help prepare successfully for opportunities to progress your career. With that in mind, I’ll share some insights and food for thought on this highly topical, and sometimes controversial, subject relating to promotion interview and selection processes… I hope you find it useful!

(Update 07/11/21: DEI Part 2 and Part 3 are now also available online for your enjoyment, plus check out the 4 minute video summary below of the whole series. Please like and share with others to aid CPD and help bring everyone up to speed on these important issues…)

Why Is Diversity, Equality & Inclusion Important for UK Police Promotion?

Consider this potential diversity police promotion board question:

“Why is diversity, equality and inclusion important for policing?”

Consideration for diversity, equality and inclusion forms the current zeitgeist of career development and other social matters. The concepts are overwhelmingly front and centre in public discourse, news, and online debate. Their importance to the public sector is clearly established in the three Public Sector Equality Duty objectives (PSED, part of the Equality Act 2010): It requires public bodies to have due regard to the following when conducting their functions: 

In policing, there is the additional context of CVF values (see also my bespoke blogs for Police Scotland candidates and YouTube videos on values) such as fairness, human rights, impartiality and more. It is simply morally and ethically the right thing to do to get the best out of people, creating an environment where everyone can feel comfortable in being themselves to innovate, thrive and excel. This helps maximise their potential while also that of the performance of the organisation. This approach aligns to the Code of Ethics, the foundation of policing values and definition of the exemplary standards of police behaviour. If you haven’t read it recently, you should! You would also do well to look again at the Policing Vision 2025, which includes objectives around building a culture of valuing difference, diversity, and openness.

You may also be interested in my recent podcast discussion with Simon Foy QPM, who makes the point that the origins lie in the Peelian Principles of UK policing. Whether it comes to representation, legitimacy, or other topical concepts in police forces, it essentially comes down to the following 200-year-old tenet of British policing:

“The police are the public and the public are the police.”

All this research and reading is critical to gain an understanding of how DEI fits in with policing across England, Wales, Scotland and PSNI. In fact, an entire facet of the police PEEL assessments (example here) conducted in all England & Wales forces is focused around ‘legitimacy’, which underpins our entire British policing model of ‘policing by consent’.

Equality, diversity and inclusion questions have been part of interviews and selection processes for promotion to the strategic ranks of Inspector and above for many years. They are now clearly featuring widespread across all ranks and forces. You will find several practice diversity questions throughout this blog trilogy and many more in my promotion ‘Interview Success’ eGuide. The questions are also being refined and increasing as a proportion of the police promotion process. Consider for example Kent Police, who now conduct a ‘pre-board’ of diversity and inclusion questions ahead of the main promotion interview. This is all part of the rich tapestry (or postcode lottery!) of UK promotion processes I’ve blogged about before!

To get started, get your thinking cap on for the following equality and inclusion related practice promotion interview question:

“As a newly promoted Sergeant / Inspector / Chief Inspector, how would you support and manage someone under your command returning from maternity leave to effectively integrate them back into the team?”

Police promotion interview detailed guide and example board questions

The Basics: DEI Concepts and Definitions

“Diversity is a fact. Equity is a choice. Inclusion is an action. Belonging is an outcome.” – Arthur Chan

DEI issues can be posed as a question from many different angles and behaviours, be it about inclusion in your decision-making, exploring your emotional awareness, being collaborative, or part of values-based questions around fairness and respect for human rights. 

Some officers find these concepts challenging to get their head around. But being able to articulate your own understanding of some of the terms is important, whether in response to a police promotion interview question, application form question, or other form of the various promotion assessments used across UK forces. These following definitions sampled from my premium digital guides may help your thinking on what can be bamboozling language for some…

What is Diversity? Diversity represents the various identities and differences people hold, be they physical, belief-based or experiential. Diversity asks, “Who is in the room?”

Diversity is often equated to just the nine protected characteristics, which are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion/belief, sex, and sexual orientation (see video in next section for more on these). However, it clearly transcends this pigeon-holing as I discuss earlier; the ultimate diversity is that of thought and reflects everyone’s characteristics (physical or psychological), experiences, and ideas.

What is Equality? Equality refers to the fair treatment of people, equal opportunity, and/or equal access to resources. Equality asks, “Who’s trying to get in the room, but can’t?”

What is Inclusion: Inclusion simply refers to the active engagement and participation of all people, be it in relation to decisions, ideas, or actions. Inclusion asks, “Have everyone’s ideas been heard?”

The higher you go through the ranks, the greater the importance of these facets to the role. This is because of the increasing influence you will have in more senior police leadership roles; particularly at Chief Inspector, the gateway to Superintendent.

Discrimination is also an often-misunderstood concept in this context. Discrimination describes when there is unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, particularly in relation to their protected characteristics and is (rightly) illegal under the Equality Act 2010.

It’s important to remember that everyone’s characteristics are protected, not just those who happen to fall in minority categories. The most inclusive leaders will involve everyone’s views, ideas and needs. However, the focus in policing rightly tends to be on increasing representation and progression of those in underrepresented groups (i.e. ‘Positive Action’). Whether discrimination is overt or inadvertent matters not; policing is rightly focused on removing it in the workplace to ensuring fairness, inclusion and meeting its obligations under the PSED.

Positive Action refers to a range of legal methods to remove potential discrimination or barriers for underrepresented groups, such as bespoke training, workplace adjustments, or other supportive mechanisms.

Positive Action is often confused or used synonymously with ‘Positive Discrimination’. Don’t make that mistake! Put simply, there is nothing ‘positive’ about discrimination; such actions remain illegal and unjust, whoever is being excluded or treated with prejudice as a result.

The UK Government’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy 2018 to 2025 gives another useful overview for further reading, especially because DEI is starting to feature more as a focus in police promotion interviews and wider selection processes for the federated ranks. In a nutshell the government’s strategy is to: “Ensure we continue to champion equality and diversity in all that we do, whether it concerns our staff or the wider public”.

Great Expectations of Police Leaders…

“Good leadership requires you to surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation.” – Doris Kearns Goodwin

Whatever your perspective on these matters, as a leader you will be expected to take on additional responsibilities and accountabilities when managing people, resources, and processes. If that’s not for you, that’s OK; you can choose to stay as a Constable delivering professional policing in line with the Code of Ethics. For those who want to develop their leadership potential including shouldering such additional challenges, learning about, and researching these topics is essential. One place to start is my introductory video on DEI shown below:

When aspiring to formal police leadership positions like Sergeant, Inspector or Chief Inspector, you will also be expected to cultivate a sense of inclusion and belonging for individuals with different experiences or from various backgrounds. Making others aware of the importance of diversity, equality, and inclusion will enhance and develop organisational capability and service delivery. What are your thoughts on how you will meet this expectation? Consider the following practice interview question for example:

“How will you enhance inclusion in the workplace to deliver better policing in this force?” 

Taking ownership and personal responsibility for your CPD is another essential leadership behaviour, not least because CPD is often a killer question in promotion interviews. Reading is an essential part of your ongoing development, to stay abreast of and understand the latest issues in policing. One great recent example might be a recent report by the College of Policing, in conjunction with the NPCC and a disability advocate organisation called Purple Space. Their recently-published workplace adjustments report explores diversity and inclusion for individuals with disability or neurodiverse conditions. It’s not for the faint-hearted at 133 pages, so I’ve picked out some key points in this short 3-minute video, to help communicate the findings and help aspiring leaders quickly familiarise themselves with the contents…

I hope you have found this introductory blog on diversity, equality and inclusion helpful. DEI is such a vast and complex subject, I decided to compile this material in a blog series to fully do it justice. In Part 2, I shall go further on some of the controversies, concepts, more example interview questions and how you can prepare; including by taking a ‘dragon-fly eye view’ of perspectives… watch this space!

Kind Regards, Steve

If you found this blog helpful, you can hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, attend or download my Police Promotion Masterclass, or contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a collection of videos, eGuides, a podcast, plus free blog content both here and via my Police Hour guest articles.

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