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Avon and Somerset Police encourages inclusivity through specialised initiatives

This week is ‘National Inclusion Week’ – a week designed to celebrate inclusion in all its forms, as well as offering organisations across the country the opportunity to talk about their inclusion practices. Avon and Somerset Police is on a journey to become one of the most inclusive police forces in England and Wales and, this week, we’re sharing stories from some of our staff who have already benefited from taking part.

The Outreach Team

In 2019 Avon and Somerset Police recruited, as part of our five big ideas, Diverse Workforce Outreach Workers. The Outreach Team’s main role is to support through community engagement increasing diverse recruitment in our organisation. They build relationships with new people and communities to increase trust and understanding, create awareness of opportunities in policing and enhance community insight and engagement. Each person was appointed for their knowledge and lived experience of diverse communities, their needs and their concerns. This is very important in identifying and breaking down some of the barriers preventing people from under-represented areas from joining the police service. The Outreach Team regularly organise workshops and events, and offer support and mentorship to those who want to pursue a career with the police.

Jo Dimitrova (not his real name) from Bulgaria joined the force in 2021 as a police constable and said:

“I heard about the recruitment opportunities available at Avon and Somerset Police at a discovery workshop organised by the Outreach Team. When I decided to apply to join the police service, I was a little apprehensive to start with. The recruitment process is different to the one in Bulgaria and seemed daunting at first. The Outreach Team was a brilliant source of support throughout my entire application process. They worked through each step with me and helped me build my confidence so that I went on to be offered two roles – a police constable and a PCSO role.

“Coming to the UK as a 24-year-old meant I had to learn a new language, as well as gain the knowledge and skills required to work in the police. With the Outreach Team encouraging and motivating me every step of the way, these barriers became less prominent. I’m very proud to be serving at Avon and Somerset Police”.

The BAME Leadership Programme

Currently, approximately 4% of police constables identify as BAME at Avon and Somerset Police, with less than 1% occupying higher ranking positions. The BAME leadership programme is an initiative which aims to encourage and support more sergeants and inspectors from ethnic minority backgrounds to apply for promotions. The three-month course, which was launched in September 2019, includes opportunities for BAME officers to expand their professional networks, whilst also building their confidence to apply for senior policing roles.

Serena Serjeant, who started her journey at Avon and Somerset Police as a constable and is now a sergeant, commented:

“Our organisation wants people from ethnic minorities to progress through the ranks and wants to encourage BAME officers to achieve their best professionally. The BAME Leadership Programme provides officers from ethnic minority backgrounds with the same professional development opportunities and the same progression support as their peers. The introduction of the course was a huge step towards helping the organisation be more diverse and inclusive.

“The programme has been instrumental in helping individuals to progress from sergeant to inspector, and chief inspector. It helped me broaden my professional network, whilst also providing me with the necessary skills and confidence to progress”.

Staff and Officer support groups

Our staff and officer support networks and associations are instrumental in helping us to drive inclusivity within Avon and Somerset Police. We have a wide range available to join, including the Disabled Police Association, the National Police Autism Association and the Black Police Association. The groups enable officers and staff from all walks of life to seek support, guidance and mentoring from colleagues who have a lived or shared experience of their own.

According to Charlotte Fay-Fineran, Chair of the LGBT+ Association:

“At the beginning of my journey with the police service four years ago, I didn’t declare my sexuality on my application form but quickly found I could be open about it thanks to my colleagues. After joining the network, I became part of the movement for bringing awareness to gender identity issues in the force. I pushed for change in our online forms as it felt restrictive for non-binary people, or for those who do not identify as male or female. They were forced to ‘prefer not to say’. After this I was encouraged to apply for the LGBT+ Association Chair position when the committee underwent restructuring.

“One of the goals of the support networks and associations is to create a committee which is able to accommodate and support different groups of people, whether they identify as LGBT+ or as an ally. The network is available to support our officers and staff by taking their feedback and lived experience and relaying it to those who can make actual change.”