Police Superintendents Logo

Talking about difference, matters

Paul Griffiths, Vice President:

One of the Association’s priorities is to champion the benefits of valuing difference and inclusivity in the service, particularly amongst our membership. Following feedback from members, we organised a one-day event bringing together expert speakers. The aim was to broaden thinking about difference, why it matters in the workplace and ways to make the service more inclusive.

Each speaker brought personal insight to the topic. The day was opened by Ruth Hunt, CEO of Stonewall, whose engaging, humorous style complemented important messages about power, control and change. She recognised how policing’s relationship with LGBT communities has changed over time, and emphasised a generous, value-driven leadership where the workforce is trusted.

Former Detective Inspector and athlete Paula Craig told a compelling story full of courage, humour and determination. The audience, of around 60 members as well as representatives of other policing bodies, listened in rapt silence about her story of returning to work and progressing after becoming a wheelchair user. I appreciated her reflections on the impact a senior leader can have on a person who is suffering and needs hope, stability and security. The audience was left in no doubt that they should question what any individual can bring to a team?

Former Det Insp and athlete Paula Craig

Chief Constable Gareth Wilson gave a candid account of the current position of the NPCC on equality and inclusion, and the hopes for the future. It was really useful to get the picture contextualised and to emphasize the importance of the leadership and cultural drive for positive change.

An extremely powerful part of the day was the contribution from our three National Executive Committee representatives for difference – Clint Blackburn on LGBT, Bhupinder (Bobbi) Rai on BAME and Sam de Reya on gender. They spoke about the work they each are doing to progress difference and inclusion matters on behalf of the Association.

NEC representative Sam de Reya presenting findings from the staff survey on gender (L) and (R) findings from the staff survey on LGBT 

I was struck how much their shared about themselves and why recognising the importance of difference really matters to them. The use and impact of language and assumptions – Clint demonstrated the this by mentioning how often he is asked about ‘his wife’: a polite and well-meaning enquiry but one that can cause difficulties for LGBT people who find they regularly have to ‘out’ themselves in that situation. Bobbi’s heartfelt explanation of why she is a different person at home and at work was a powerful illustration of the cultural challenges and tensions still facing many in policing and other public services

Sam’s account of experiencing sexism at work rightly made the room cringe, but it was clear to the room that she had harnessed those experiences to drive her passion for valuing difference and to fight more strongly for real change.

We then heard from leadership expert Pavita Cooper, who underlined the importance in societal myth busting around underrepresented groups. Her perspective was that policing should question its ‘employer brand’ and this should be cause for deep self-reflection: she said we should be looking at how we come across to those we want to join us, and really questioning what we can offer them? I also welcomed her views on the importance of an inclusive environment to underrepresented groups, rather than the continuing development of support network groups.

Pavita Cooper

Our final speaker was Professor Bela Arora from the University of South Wales. She shared her experience of being in a minority member of academia, illustrating real similarities and parallels with policing and the challenges of trying to progress through hierarchies. The challenges encountered by underrepresented group members should never be under-estimated: the exclusionary nature of some teams, illustrated by the example of the inter-departmental football match which immediately excluded females was poignant and impactive.

I would like to thank each of our speakers for their time and their openness, as well as for their ongoing commitment to ensuring difference matters.

As well as those in the room, our social media activity just on the day led to 55,000 impressions of the different messages – that is 55,000 opportunities to see why difference matters to the Association, policing and society.

We intend to continue this work, through our drive to improve opportunities for under-represented groups by training our members in coaching and mentoring, and through the work of our three leads and our ongoing engagement with NPCC, Home Office, the College of Policing and others. We know that difference matters.