The Metropolitan police has been accused of trying to silence a vital voice of criticism on diversity by cutting funding for its association of black officers.
Plans drawn up for the force would see the Metropolitan Black Police Association lose all three of its full-time staff in the name of cost-cutting.
One BPA founder member, Leroy Logan, attacked the proposal as “the biggest threat to the race equality agenda in the Met”.
He said of the plans: “They are taking their only critical friend and gagging them.”
The Met BPA helps officers suffering from discrimination at work, and says it also helps the force’s relations with London’s black communities.
The proposals follow an internal and external review, with the latter conducted by consultants Ernst & Young. But even supporters accept that the plans risk the “perception the Met is undervaluing underrepresented staff”, documents outlining the proposals say.
The Guardian has learned that under the plans, white senior officers – rather than more junior black officers – could represent the concerns of black officers at high-level meetings.
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One document explaining the plans says staff support associations, such as the BPA, “should have an executive sponsor from the senior leadership team … to represent their views, act as a spokesperson and role model, and drive progress.
“The executive sponsor should not necessarily directly identify with the protected characteristic represented by Staff Support Association members in order to increase visibility across the MPS [Metropolitan police service].”
The row presents an unwelcome early challenge for incoming commissioner Cressida Dick, who has previously said she is a champion of the Met’s long-running fight to stamp out prejudice in the ranks.
Sgt Janet Hills, chair of the Met BPA, urged Dick to intervene. “The rationale is flawed,” she said.
“They are trying to silence a critic – we are a voice of difference which does not always follow the party line. The new commissioner should revisit these plans.”
The Met says it is committed to diversity and denies a clampdown on internal criticism. It says its management board approved the needs for reform to bodies like the BPA weeks ago and says it hopes to save money, while doing better on diversity.
It adds that the force is trying to find savings of £400m by 2020. Final details are being hammered out and savings may run into the hundreds of thousands of pounds.