McArthur reveals police departure figures higher among BME recruits

By Bill Heaney

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today challenged Police Scotland to boost efforts to support BME staff after a freedom of information request revealed that a larger proportion of BME officers and staff left compared to those who identified as White Scottish.

Scottish Liberal Democrats submitted a freedom of information request seeking breakdowns of Police Scotland officer and staff departures by ethnicity and compared to retention rates as a whole.

The response showed that:

  • 13% of police officers recruited between 01/04/2013 and 31/03/2022 left during the same timeframe.
  • However, 18% of officers who identified as BME left in this timeframe, compared to 10% who identified as White Scottish.
  • 32% of police staff recruited between 01/04/2013 and 31/03/2022 left during the same timeframe.
  • Of these, 42% of staff who identified as BME departed versus 31% of staff who identified as White Scottish.

Mr McArthur said:  “These figures show officers from BME backgrounds quitting the service at almost twice the rate of white Scots. Not only are these numbers a huge problem for fairness and representation, they also prevent us from tearing down barriers between the police and the communities they work in.

“In recent years, the Black Lives Matter movement has forced us all to face uncomfortable truths about society and its attitudes. Every institution has a responsibility to forge a better way forward.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats are calling on ministers and Police Scotland to do more to increase diversity in policing and improve retention of BME recruits.

“Staff surveys need to be a regular feature of the service, so that issues are identified quickly. We also need to see concerted action to root out prejudicial and discriminatory behaviour and practices.

“That so many staff and officers from BME backgrounds are choosing to leave in droves should have alarm bells ringing in Police Scotland. It is long past time for this to be addressed.”

The full freedom of information response can be found here.

The recent Independent Review of Police Complaints showed that racism within these ranks is not yet a thing of the past. Dame Angiolini found evidence of a canteen culture stuck in the same rut recorded by the Macpherson Report 20 years ago. She said accounts from officers and staff left her feeling ‘extraordinarily depressed’.

A 2021 report from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) report highlighted data on recruitment, retention, development, and promotion of people from underrepresented groups in Police Scotland 32% (5,709) of police officers are female and 1% (253) are from black or minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds. The figures are not representative of the general Scottish population, which is 51.1% female and 4% BME.

Pictures show:  BME officers policing an Orange Walk in Dumbarton. Pictures by Bill Heaney

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