Understandings of police race relations

Holdaway, Simon and Murji, Karim (2012). Understandings of police race relations. In: Sveinsson, Kjartan Páll ed. Criminal Justice v. Racial Justice: Minority ethic representation in the criminal justice system. Runnymede Perspectives. London: Runnymede Trust, pp. 21–23.

URL: http://www.runnymedetrust.org/publications/172/32....


Introduction: Discussions about police discrimination often focus upon the overrepresentation of ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system. The pattern is diverse for different minority groups but stop and search statistics and the profile of the prison population, for example, provide evidence of overrepresentation at just two points of the criminal justice system (Bowling and Phillips, 2002; Webster, 2007). Many more examples could be cited. The other side of the coin is the under-representation of ethnic minorities. The extent to which, for example, racial harassment is under-recorded in police statistics, or whether there are particular cultural factors or constraints that make some minorities less likely to offend and to therefore be underrepresented in official statistics are long-standing questions. When we turn to the numbers of ethnic minorities employed within criminal justice agencies we again find under-representation (Bowling and Phillips, 2002). Both higher and lower levels of minority ethnic representation at different points of and in different places within the criminal justice system therefore need analysis and explanation.

These aspects of the over- and underrepresentation of minority ethnic groups within the criminal justice system are now under the direction of the coalition government and the new political context that it has set. A diminished significance of race in politics, which harmonizes with the policies of the last Labour government, especially their 2010 Equality Act, and the new coalition government’s express desire to move away from what it sees as the excessive ‘bureaucratic accountability’ of the 1997–2010 Labour governments are two key notes of its approach to them.

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