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Police chief facing diversity dilemma.

Byline: Richard Warburton

The head of the British Transport Police yesterday claimed the 'promised land' of a truly racially diverse force will never be realised because of the changing demands of society.

Chief Constable Ian Johnston said new efforts to fully integrate ethnic minorities in the force have been well intentioned but not a resounding success.

However, in a blunt speech to members of the BTP's Support Association for Minority Ethnic Staff (SAME), Mr Johnston said the police had never had a better opportunity to address its mistakes of the past.

He told SAME's first annual general meeting in Birmingham that he was determined to do all he could to introduce a greater level of diversity into the transport police.

'British Transport Police is a little behind other forces in addressing this issue and although we have reached the stage where we have identified the problem, we have yet to come up with suitable solutions,' he said. 'A major problem we have is that changes in society mean the goal we are aiming for is always moving and I doubt we will ever reach the promised land of diversity that we are after.

'What we have found is that the more we have examined the problem of diversity, the more problems it throws up and the more difficult it becomes to deal with it.

'What we have to do is make sure that the journey towards that promised land is as fast and easy as possible for everyone, whatever their background.'

SAME was established in April 2000 to highlight issues that particularly effect ethnic minorities and to be a positive influence in the force's policy making process.

Members now sit on the BTP's Policy Advisory Group and have successfully lobbied for a better grievance procedure.

Mr Johnston said the efforts of SAME had led to a powerful platform for the police to build on to make sure racial diversity becomes less of an issue in the future.

'The picture is not a totally bleak one as SAME is now part of the force's conscience and we are working hard at finding those solutions,' he added.

Describing Mr Johnston's comments as refreshingly honest, Jeff Boothe, chairman of SAME, said the police had a long way to go before becoming truly representative of the general public.

He said the BTP needed more people from minority groups, including women, in senior positions for the force to have a better understanding of their needs.

'Some may feel a little disappointed at what Mr Johnston said and that he was not painting a rosy picture of the state of diversity in the transport police.'

'We have to be realistic about the issues we face rather than hide them under the carpet, like what went on for far too long in the past,' he added.

'We have now identified that there are barriers within the force and that is the most important thing at this time.

'What we now have to do now is find a way around and over those barriers so that we can move forward.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 22, 2003
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