Andrew George, a serving PSNI officer and president of the UK’s National Black Police Association, was responding to a sternly-critical set of findings from the Police Ombudsman into the PSNI’s policing of two Black Lives Matter demonstrations during the summer.
He was just one of a number of people heaping criticism on the PSNI in wake of the ombudsman’s report.
For instance Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said today there must be a “roll out of proper human rights training for PSNI officers alongside meaningful engagement with affected communities”.
The protests took place in central Belfast and central Londonderry on June 6, and drew crowds estimated to be roughly 1,000 and 1,200, respectively.
They had followed on from a roughly 2,000-strong protest on June 3 in Belfast – which police essentially took no action over.
The demonstrations occurred at a time when lockdown law stated that people were not allowed to gather in groups of six or more (unless people were from the same household).
The law empowered officers to tell crowds to disperse, and to use force if needs be to implement their removal.
In spite of the law and the many public warnings about gathering in large numbers, the Police Ombudsman criticised the PSNI for not taking enough account of people’s right to protest and express themselves and said they failed to take into account the “context” of the protests – “namely, the public response to police use of lethal force against George Floyd and other members of the black community in the USA and wider concerns of racial inequality”.
In a statement, Inspector George said “whilst Northern Ireland has become more diverse, issues relating to ethnic minority communities have neither been acknowledged or included within existing frameworks” within law enforcement.
He added; “I believe that PSNI is institutionally racist; in relation to existing systems and processes within PSNI which work to the detriment of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.
“This does not mean that all officers and staff members are racist.”
He described the association as having “advocated for racial equality in policing across the UK for over 20 years and we are here to help ensure ethnic minorities have a meaningful input and voice in policing in Northern Ireland”.
He said 41 officers and around 15 staff from an ethnic minority in PSNI – about “0.5% of the work force”.
A biography on the PSNI states his father is from Malaysia and his mother from NI.
He joined the police in 1999 and was first posted to Omagh.
He then joined the Armed Response Unit, leaving it in 2017.
He now holds the rank of inspector and he says he has been “rotating through fast track promotion processes”.
Inspector George also said he is attached to the “Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit in HR” and his biography on the official PSNI website says “I have been subject to more indirect racism when I felt that I was passed over for temporary promotion because of my ethnicity”.
He adds: “Conscious and unconscious bias with respect to all minority groupings has to be challenged by all organisations.
“Within the Police Service of Northern Ireland and within police forces across Great Britain I am working with senior police leaders to change and put in place policies and procedures to bring about meaningful change and to eliminate these biases so that we can have a truly diverse and inclusive workforce.”
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