Political correctness has gone too far and does little to further the cause of black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, the new president of the National Black Police Association has said.
Andy George, an inspector with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), said gestures such as banning people from referring to ‘black coffee’ were unhelpful and were often championed by those unaffected personally by racism.
Mr George, who is mixed race, said the way to improve the lives of those from BAME backgrounds was to increase opportunities and break the cycle of poverty rather than focusing on issues around language and phrases.
He told the Sunday Telegraph: "I think with political correctness it was probably an attempt to do the right thing and to get things right but I think a lot of the stuff that was brought in was done without a lot of consultation with those who are probably affected most.
"I think things did shift in a certain direction, potentially even too far in some stages, around being too politically correct and not being able to call a black coffee a black coffee.
"It kind of takes away from the wider issues on things that are impacting on black and minority ethnic communities everyday, the societal issues around the fact that they have limited opportunities; they have limited access to resources like IT; they are in this cycle of poverty due to legacy issues in the community."
But he said while respecting freedom of speech, people did not have the right to deliberately insult others.
He explained: “ I think getting that balance right is probably the hardest thing but policing shouldn’t shy away from the difficult issues.
“If we receive a complaint from somebody then we are duty bound to investigate that and assess it to see if it has met the criminal threshold."
Mr George said race relations had come a long way since the murder of Stephen Lawrence
Mr George, who acknowledged policing has come a long way in terms of race relations since the murder of black teenager, Stephen Lawrence 27-years ago, said he feared some of that progress had been lost recently and warned that it was no time for complacency.
He said: "I think we have definitely had some slippage. Some of that has been because of resources. I think austerity has been a big issue.
"In the last six years we did have a reduction in neighbourhood policing as well. Those community engagements where officers are getting to see the good side of the community and the community is getting to see the person underneath the uniform. That’s where the trust and confidence is built.”
His comments come as the Metropolitan Police launches a fresh drive to increase trust and confidence among London’s black communities.
Cressida Dick is trying to improve relations between police and black communities
Credit: Aaron Chown/PA
The action plan includes an initiative to recruit 40 per cent of all new officers from Black, Asian and minority communities by 2020.
Mr George said Scotland Yard could learn from PSNI’s decision to adopt positive disrimination which saw the number of Catholic police officers in the force increase from eight per cent to 36 per cent in a decade.
“What we had to do in Northern Ireland was take a step back and listen to what the community was telling us.
“For us that was a lot harder to do because we had people that were involved on the other side way. So we now have people on the policing board who were part of the professional IRA and were in prison and are now dictating what should happen to us.”
Mr George, who grew up as part of Northern Ireland’s protestant majority, said working alongside people from different backgrounds and communities was the best way of breaking down barriers.
Mr George, who has taken on the role of NBPA President at a time when debate around the policing of Black Lives Matter protests is still fierce, was also critical of Dame Cressida Dick’s order to Met officers not to ‘take the knee’.
He said: “I would never force a police officer to take the knee but I don’t think we should be prevented either if we think personally that we would like to.”