Police are ‘forgotten victims’ as scale of hate crime against officers is revealed

PUBLISHED: 07:30 16 October 2020 | UPDATED: 12:28 16 October 2020

Detective Inspector Michael Pereira, chairman of Suffolk Ethnic Police Association  Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Detective Inspector Michael Pereira, chairman of Suffolk Ethnic Police Association Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Suffolk Constabulary

A police detective has spoken out on the impact of hatred levelled at colleagues from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

As the country observes Hate Crime Awareness Week, Detective Inspector Mike Pereira said police officers and staff were often the forgotten victims of what some considered “just part of the job”.

The chairman of Suffolk Ethnic Police Association (SEPA) spoke out after members were consulted on their experiences as a way of generating thought and discussion during the week of awareness.

Among the responses, one said: “When I am abused at work, my immediate thought is that it’s part of the job”, while another read: “Sometimes I hate my ethnicity, I hate that I’m different and I stand out.”

Det Insp Pereira, the most senior BAME officer in the force, said: “Hate crime strikes at the very core of who you are.

“It’s about years of lived experience combined with the unique role of the police. In situations of high intensity, people’s inner prejudices surface.

“There’s perhaps a culture of ‘toughing it out’ in the police.

“By saying ‘that’s what you signed up for’, it diminishes how serious hate crime is.”

For some, said Det Insp Pereira, the decision to join the police can be deeply unpopular with friends, family and wider community presenting an additional burden.

“It’s a unique dynamic, which I don’t think is often spoken about,” he added.

“I wouldn’t ever say it relates to a particular group of people or a community but there are things that are difficult to overcome in terms of past historical issues.

“Some of those prejudices are born out of fear and lack of understanding.”

A recent headcount of Suffolk officers showed that just 3.1% of those who declared their ethnicity were from BAME backgrounds.

The force said that last year’s government drive to recruit 20,000 officers had provided an opportunity to make a difference, and that a rise in new applicants from diverse backgrounds was encouraging, but that work still needed to be done.

Among responses to the recent consultation of SEPA members, one read: “I can understand why constabularies are struggling to recruit BAME officers.”

Another said: “I feel stupid for thinking this, but when I joined the police, and particularly when I am out in uniform, I just assumed no one would be racist towards me.

“In reality it doesn’t matter what job I do, hate is hate.”

Det Insp Pereira said representation was improving, and that almost all contributors felt supported by colleagues, teams and supervisors.

He added: “As traumatic as these incidents are, everyone I spoke to said they felt really well supported.

“I speak as chairman of SEPA but I recognise that hate crime can affect anyone. I don’t place any protected characteristic above another.

“Initiatives like Hate Crime Awareness Week are there to help bring about a level of social unacceptability and give people the confidence to come forward.”

In the six months to the end of September, police recorded 559 hate crimes across Suffolk – a 31% increase on the previous six months.

Nationally, the number of racially or religiously aggravated offences in June 2020 was a third higher (34%) than in June 2019 – an increase the Home Office said was likely related to far-right counter-protests to the Black Lives Matter movement.

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