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Fairness and not political correctness key to building 'best' diverse forces today, argues chief Cash-strapped West Midlands pays £1,500 for talk to senior command team on 'white identity'. Dr Robert Beckford: Learning from 'whiteness studies' A chief has defended the decision to invite an academic to lecture approaching 100 senior officers about “white privilege and identity”, landing the biggest regional force in the UK with her a £1,500 bill. Chief constable Dave Thompson is adamant his West Midlands force currently “does not reflect” the communities serving the second-most ethnically diverse region in the country. And he swatted away critics complaining the police today is “obsessed with political correctness”, insisting instead that what mattered was a “fundamental issue of fairness”. Last month’s force saw Dr Robert Beckford, a professor of theology and culture at Canterbury Christ Church University and former Birmingham University lecturer, talk to the force’s senior command team. Dr Beckford said the leadership conference lecture – titled What can we learn from critical whiteness studies? – explored how policing can learn from the cultural politics of whiteness studies within the UK. CC Thompson, policing’s national finance lead, said Dr Beckford is a leading national academic, discussing an established and researched academic subject that was used to invite senior leaders to discuss “how our current demographics reflect how we work”. Although paid for out of the force’s training budget, the chief officer argued: “It was an excellent and challenging input. He stressed: “Making sure we are fair to all our staff and communities is at the heart of what West Midlands Police needs to do. “I will not shy away from challenging our force to be the best we can be – for everyone.” While one of the most diverse areas in the country, the chief constable said the “force does not reflect this” with only around 11 per cent of officers from minority groups against the region’s 30 per cent ethnic population. He added: “We must do better. And I am committed to changing this by recruiting and promoting a more diverse workforce. “I want the force to look like the public we serve. “We simply have to do this as our region is changing rapidly and we won’t be a fair and legitimate service if we don’t change too. “This means investing in diversity and inclusion strategies and the staff to deliver this, positive action programmes and national support for staff networks. “It also means challenging our leaders. “I am aware some people feel this is about the police being obsessed with political correctness. It isn’t. It is a fundamental issue of fairness.” While not an expert in policing or criminology, Dr Beckford said he taught students to think how their identities impacted on their professions. Last month the force paused its application process after being accused of blocking white male officers from promotion to give women and ethnic minority candidates a better chance. It aspires to achieving “closer to 30 per cent black, Asian and minority ethnic and 50 per cent female representation of the West Midlands”, according to the force’s People and Organisation Development department. Dr Beckford reportedly took officers who attended the lecture through the research on the history of white identities, and how “whiteness works”. The audience was “incredibly engaged”, according to Dr Beckford as he discussed how forces across the globe are becoming much more inclusive, not only in terms of ethnicity but also on gender and sexuality. He said the force was not attempting anything unique – merely recognising that good policing requires diversity at work. View On Police Oracle