Police diversity and #biasinbritain 1.

Thanks to the referral of Ben Bradford, I had the privilege to work with Vikram Dodd from The Guardian who asked me to have a look at some data on police diversity in Britain. Vikram’s excellent piece can be read here, and he mentioned me by name in the article. In this post, I will discuss the analysis I did and how it informed the Bias in Britain project.

Admittedly, the analysis itself was simple and straightforward. I used data on the ethnic makeup of the police and modelled the changes that took place between 2006 and 2018. I fitted a linear regression analysis so I could derive the expected proportion of BME police officers based on current trends. It is probably easier if I show what I’ve done using this interactive chart:

As you can see, it is astonishing how linear this trend has been. On average, each year the proportion of BME police officers increased by 0.234 percentage point (t=14.9, p<0.001). The R-squared statistic implies that year explains approximately 95.3% of the variation. The results indicate that should this trend continue, the police force will only mirror England and Wales’s current ethnic makeup (14.9%) by 2052 (by which time estimates put the share of BME people at 20%).

Naturally, there are several limitations that need to be addressed here. First, there is only a limited number of data points available (i.e., the number of observations is low). Second, much of the period under scrutiny coincided with the Great Recession and the austerity measures that were implemented by the Coalition and Tory governments. A closer look at the data indicates that this had effects that both aided and halted police diversity. Shrinking police forces have become more racially diverse because it was more likely that older (and whiter) officers left the force, however, the hiring constraints also meant that fewer new people could be hired (i.e., there were fewer opportunities to hire more people from ethnic minority background). Finally, there is no data available regarding the specific background of each of the BME officers, so we do not know how certain ethnicities fare compared to others (e.g., South-East Asians vs Black Caribbeans).

Obviously, the goal of this modelling exercise was not to give a forecast, rather describe the current direction and pace of change. Next week I will discuss how the changes in England and Wales compare to results from the US and why diversity in the police force is desirable.

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