More than 100 Northumbria Police officers investigated for racism in five years

Northumbria Police has received dozens of allegations of racism by their staff over the past five years.

New data shows that 118 police officers and staff had been investigated across the force area between 2015 and 2020, and one faced disciplinary action.

Katie Barratt was dismissed by Northumbria Police after using racist language at the Spice of Punjab takeaway, on Newcastle’s Westmorland Road, while off duty on a work night out.

A misconduct hearing panel heard how shocked colleagues watched on as PC Barratt said: “I wish these f****** p**** would hurry up with my pizza”, in 2017.

Latest figures have revealed discrepancies in the way different police forces across the country deal with allegations of racism by their staff.

Across England and Wales, 5,169 allegations of racially-motivated misconduct were made to 39 police forces between 2015 and 2020, but just 153 were upheld – less than 3%.

And huge gaps are evident between individual forces – with one upholding nearly half of complaints while 12 others did not uphold a single one.

PC Katie Barratt, of Northumbria Police
PC Katie Barratt, who was sacked by Northumbria Police
(Image: Handout)

Campaigners have called for allegations to be re-investigated after the figures were branded “disgusting” and forces were accused of “gaslighting” victims of discrimination.

The families of Sean Rigg and Olaseni Lewis, young black men who died after being detained by police, said the data reveals officers can “act with impunity” with no meaningful oversight.

And Dr Victor Olisa, a former Met Police borough commander who was one of the UK’s most senior black officers, said the figures should raise alarm bells across British policing.

The Met Police received the highest number of complaints, but dismissed 98.4% of the 1,368 allegations made against its staff.

By comparison Cheshire Police upheld 46.5% of its 43 complaints, while Northamptonshire’s figure was 37.5% and in the West Midlands it was 31.6%.

In the North East, a single complaint (0.8%) was upheld by Northumbria Police, while Durham Constabulary was one of three forces across the country to not respond to the freedom of information requests.

There are shocking discrepancies in the way police forces deal with allegations of racism
The number of allegations of racism made to police forces across the country between 2015 and 2020
(Image: unknown)

Detective Superintendent Steve Ammari, of Northumbria Police’s Professional Standards Department, said: “Every complaint made to police is investigated and a referral will be made to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) where appropriate.

“These figures show that in five years, one officer out of thousands of officers, staff and volunteers has been found to have used racist language.

“This particular incident was raised internally and, as a result, that officer no longer works for the force after being dismissed following disciplinary proceedings. We successfully ensured this decision was upheld when it was challenged by the individual concerned.

“Our organisation has been recognised as one of the most inclusive in the country and our ongoing recruitment drive means our workforce is becoming even more diverse to reflect the communities we are proud to serve.

“We continue to work hard to build on a working environment where officers and staff feel comfortable to report inappropriate behaviour of their peers, while we are also committed to ensuring every complaint from the public is properly investigated.

“Any time we do find there is a case to answer then it has been proven we will take appropriate action.

“We want to be clear that any form of racism within society is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

The 12 forces that did not uphold a single complaint about racially-motivated misconduct included Cambridgeshire, Devon and Cornwall, Lancashire, Sussex, Hampshire, Thames Valley, Staffordshire, West Mercia, City of London, Gwent, Humberside and Cumbria.

Meanwhile the others forces to not respond were Lincolnshire and South Wales – while one, Wiltshire, refused to provide figures.

Campaigners have branded the findings “disgusting”, saying they undermine confidence in UK policing.

But the National Police Chiefs Council claims the variation is “expected”, and denied institutional racism.

Katrina Ffrench, chief executive of StopWatch, which campaigns to make police more accountable, said the figures highlight a toxic culture within the UK’s law enforcement.

Katrina, who said she had been made to undergo a strip search herself by police after being wrongly accused of having a weapon five years ago, said: “There’s no accountability.

“This leaves people feeling marginalised – if you can’t trust the police, who can you trust? The complaints process isn’t fit for purpose.”

Ms Ffrench said chief constables should go back and re-investigate previous allegations.

Get free email updates straight to your inbox

Chroniclelive factbox image

Sign up to our free newsletter to receive our top stories twice a day as well as up to the minute breaking stories, information on coronavirus and the latest Newcastle United and Sunderland AFC football stories.

It takes just seconds to sign up – just click on this link, enter your email address and follow the instructions.

If you change your mind you can unsubscribe using the link at the bottom of every newsletter we send out.

Find us on the British Newspaper Archive here.

She said victims of police discrimination are being “gaslighted” – and many are unwilling to go through the complaints process for fear of being targeted.

Ms Ffrench stated: “These complaints aren’t malicious, it’s a long and complex process which is very traumatic to relive.

“But most people won’t complain to a system that they don’t think they will get justice from.

“The state always wins. But I tell people that they need to make a complaint so that it’s there on record.”

In a small number of cases, the figures reveal, police staff were sacked for discrimination.

Police officers
A small number of police officers have been sacked for sickening discrimination
(Image: Northumbria Police)

Police forces deny that the figures are a sign of systemic failings.

Chief Constable Craig Guildford, lead for complaints and misconduct, at the National Police Chiefs Council, said the variation between the proportion of upheld cases is “expected”.

He said: “Whilst complaints of racism are extremely low in number each one is still taken very seriously by our professional standards departments and the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

He rubbished allegations of institutional racism within UK police forces, saying: “The police service welcomes scrutiny and wherever there is evidence of misconduct we will always take appropriate action.

“Equally, when an investigation finds no evidence, it is important that this is also reported.”

Chronicle Live – Sunderland