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critically how far and in what ways women and ethnic minority people
experience unequal treatment in POLICING and discuss what might explain such

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respect, integrity, dedication and empathy. These five values are the typical
ideals by which police forces across the UK carry out their daily duties in
protection of the nation (, 2017). However, when it comes to
the policing of minority groups, name women and BAME (Black, Asian, and
minority ethnic) populations, the continuity of some of these values becomes
quite debated. In the social world we are introduced to the idea of gender and
race as social constructions: gender as a routine accomplishment of performance
embedded in everyday action (West and Zimmerman, 1987); and race as a
socio-political construction that is also not biologically inherent (Helms,
1995). If we accept these definitions of gender and race as social constructs,
we are to assess the relationships of these social constructs with institutions
in society such as the police, and in what ways direct or indirect
discrimination may affect these relationships. In this essay I will explore the
implications of this with reference to these two groups as oppressed members of
society; as victims of crime, and as suspects of crime.


When looking
at general victimisation of crime, women are found to be 2% less likely to be
victims on average compared to men (, 2013), however, for violent
crimes such as rape or sexual assault women are vastly over-represented, being
ten times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than men. Despite this, research shows that
rates of women coming forward about their experiences as victims remains
exceedingly low. Statistics show that 38% of women had not told anyone about
their experiences of sexual assault since age 16, and only 11% reported it to
the police. Significantly, the most common reasons for not reporting sexual
assault to the police were that the victim did not want to experience further
humiliation (28%), and
that they did not think the police would believe them (23%) (Ministry of
Justice 2010). This suggests that police-victim relationships are not the standard they should be
when it comes to female sexual assault victims, and that females receive
unequal, unfair treatment from police when it comes to discussing their
experiences as victims of these crimes.

Theories to
explain this unequal treatment focus on some form of “Victim-blaming”, with
factors such as being young and female showing to be clear risk factors to
being victims of this type of
crime (World Health Organisation, 2016). These factors have been argued to make
women more prone to being
victims, being less likely to be believed due to being younger in age, as well
as being physically weaker than men. Hentig (1967) argues that Western women are conditioned to
believe that their value is associated with their bodies, sexuality or
promiscuity leading them to be more likely to be victimised. Additionally, it can
be argued that victims unknowingly invite or cause their own victimisation,
such as Mendelsohn’s (1974) “Victim due to ignorance” which is described as the
victim unwittingly doing something which places them to be victimised, for
example the consumption of alcohol, being out late at night, or dressing provocatively.
The justification of this type of offence due to modern day “rape culture” is one way in which females are
treated unequally in everyday policing.

This could be disputed, as some would argue that male victims are treated just as
unfairly when it comes to this type of offence. Research from male victims’
charity Survivors UK
states that it’s likely less than 10% of male sexual assault cases get reported
to the police (, 2018). This may be due to society’s projection that men should strive
to be resilient, self-sufficient and defend themselves as part of masculine
performance (May, 2015), corroborating the idea of gender being a social construct.
Therefore, perhaps the offence is the issue in lack of support from the police
in these circumstances, and not the gender of the victim.


this, ethnic minority groups are arguably also treated unequally when it comes
to being victims of crime due to underlying racial tendencies from the public
and police. Evidence from 2014/15 shows the proportion of mixed ethnic groups
as victims of personal crime being over twice that seen for the white ethnic
group, as well as higher in any previous years of the survey (Ministry of
Justice, 2014). Perceived likelihood of being a victim of crime in future also
featured Asian or Black British reporting the highest to consider themselves
being a victim of crime compared to white British. This is unsurprising, considering
the research to suggest a severe lack of policing to prevent this level of
racially-aggravated crime and interracial crime. Research suggests that victims
of racial incidents were much less likely to be satisfied with police service
than victims of crime, with some victims suggesting what they saw as racial
prejudice from police, “If I was to offend someone like this the police would
harass me instead of turning a blind eye which is what I feel like do in case
of white offenders” (Bowling and Phillips, 2003). Many participants continued
to say that ethnic minorities reporting crime often invited harassment of those
victims, such as inappropriate questioning and immigration checks (Institute of
Race Relations, 1987). This
evidence would suggest that unlike the unequal treatment of women as victims of
crime, ethnic minority victims suffer a form a direct discrimination in that
their ethnicity directly responds to the level of treatment, care and enquiry
they receive from police.

Left realism
theories suggest that lack of police interjection for racial victimisation is
the product of subcultures and marginalisation. The relative deprivation that
ethnic minorities feel from being deprived in comparison to white people
results in deviant subcultures, such as gangs, to feel included in their own
subculture (Lea and Young, 1984). The formation of these subcultures creates a
stigma around young, black people in gangs and as a result, police interjection
in racial victimisation remains low.  

Bowling’s research provided useful insight into racial victimization at the
time, more recent victimisation surveys show different patterns. The Crime
Survey for England and Wales 2014/15 shows that whilst racially-aggravated
crimes remain higher than crimes against white people, perceptions of the
effectiveness and fairness of the police and criminal justice system was either
higher from BAME groups than white groups or at the same level, suggesting that
BAME groups don’t see themselves as being treated unequally (Office for
National Statistics, 2015). These results are promising, suggesting that
perhaps although rates of BAME as victims remain disproportionately high, the
police response to such incidents is improving and becoming less prejudice over


Another area
of policing to be explored is the relationship between the police and these
groups when treated as suspects of crime, and how the police choose to deal
with those crimes. Although women in general commit less than crime than men,
it can be argued they’re treated far more leniently than their male counterparts.
In the year 2012/13, just 15% of arrests were of female offenders (Home Office,
2015). However, in the same year just under a quarter of those issued with a
caution upon arrest were also females. This pattern is consistent over the
years and could be seen to show women being treated favourably over men upon
arrest and “Let off lightly” when stopped by police. One of the main theories
used to explain this leniency is “Chivalry thesis”. This theory claims that men
seek to exert chivalrous behaviour to women, and as a result choose to grant
women less harsh treatment for the same crimes as committed by men (Cavadino,
Dignan and Mair, 2013). This theory would suggest that women are treated
favourably compared to men, contrasting to the previous evidence that women are
treated unfavourably as victims. Research from Campbell (1981) supports this
theory, having found that young women committed more offences than official
statistics indicated, implying that male police officers use their own
discretion to choose not to report many of the crimes committed by women.

However, it
must be remembered that other factors need to be considered with this theory, specifically the
type of offences that women generally commit in comparison to men. As well as
committing less crime than men, women commit less serious crime, desist from
crime more readily and tend to be more common first-time offenders than men
(Ministry of Justice, 2015). Therefore, statistics would show accuracy in the
policing system without any favourable treatment for women. Some theories would
disregard Chivalry Theory altogether and argue the opposite. Baker (2015) explains
that because committing crime is “unladylike”, women relinquish the benefits
afforded by their sex and become “evil incarnate”. These are often women
involved in gender-specific roles such as mother, wife or caregiver, and would
lead to women receiving harsher rather than favourable treatment from police in
comparison to men. However, further research would need to be conducted and analysed
to confirm either of these theories over the other.  


comparison, research suggests that unequal treatment of BAME groups as suspects
of crime occurs more so in how the police manage BAME suspects in everyday preventative
policing, rather than the decision to charge an offence or not as is the case
with women. The Equality and Human Rights Commission Report (2013) states that
when Stop and Search tactics were first introduced in policing, Asian people
were stopped and searched twice as often as white people, black people about
six times as often. This unequal treatment is not a decreasing phenomenon, with
these figures increasing or remaining consistent over the years particularly
for black people. Having said this, research shows the Asian community often
over-looked in certain areas of statistics, but slowly growing as an over-targeted
group. Interviews of the Asian community show that they feel the impact of growing
hostility towards them, with some stating that they feel they are more targeted
as a race now more than black people: that black people being segregated and frowned
upon has changed and that this needs to happen for Muslims also (Malik, 2011). This
increased discrimination could be explained by the emergence of Islamophobia
since high-profile terror attacks, such as 9/11 and 7/7/ bombings. Cohen (2011)
argues that this discrimination is the result of the media creating “moral panics”;
the disproportionate and hostile reaction to a group perceived as a threat. As
a result, police have adopted a populist style of policing (Bottoms, 1995) whereby
certain groups of society are targeted as to comfort the generalised suspicion
of the public towards this group.

However, despite
this evidence to suggest that BAME groups are discriminated against and treated
unequally by police, other factors need to be considered. Waddington et al (2004)
states that we need to consider what’s known as the “available population” when
it comes to tactics such as stop and search. This concept considers that some demographic
groups are more likely than others to spend their time at home, work, or
otherwise private space where they are unable to be stopped by police. Research
of stop and search within “Available population” contrastingly shows that white
people tend to be stopped and searched at higher rates, with Asian people and
blacks usually under-represented.

Following this,
it must be noted that unequal treatment of women and ethnic minorities takes
place in the police force itself, in the form of both under-representation in
police ranks, as well as discriminatory views towards existing officers.

Reiner (2010)
argues that one aspect of police culture is referred to as “Machismo”, and
argues that this culture requires officers to exert masculine attributes on
duty. This has been known to take the form of unequal treatment of female
officers. Jones (1986) discovered that even in the aftermath of the 1975 Discrimination
Act, female police officers remained unequal regarding their deployment, access
to promotion and training opportunities in the police force. Similarly, Young (1991)
observed that policemen remained to be “consistently hostile towards women in
the job”. Feminist theories would argue that results from traditional patriarchal
attitudes whereby policing is no place for women (Heidensohn, 1994). Similarly, for BAME officers,
a black police constable
reported “more racism is found in the actual force and amongst colleagues than
I’ve ever had in my whole life”, and added that racism in the police is accept
by ethnic minorities for fear of losing job security (Bennetto, 1998).  Ethnic minority applicants to the police are also less likely
than white applicants to be offered an interview or receive a formal offer of
employment (Home Office, 1999), resulting in underrepresentation in the police

However, it must be said that this research for both women and ethnic
minorities is somewhat outdated, and it may be the case that changing attitudes
and tighter discipline means that the truly representative account of unequal treatment
of women and BME in the police force is considerably less so today. In fact,
recent statistics show that under-representation of ethnic minorities is slowly
improving (House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, 2016),
suggesting that unequal attitudes in the police are changing and progressing.


conclusion, the evidence above shows theories of unequal treatment of women and
BAME in everyday policing to be somewhat valid, however in diverse ways and to
varying degrees. As victims of crime, ethnic minorities are shown to be treated
more unfairly than women since ethnic minorities suffer largely compared to
white counterparts, whereas women appear to be treated no more unfairly than
male victims of the same crimes. When exploring the unequal treatment of these
groups in the police force itself, both appear to be treated as unequally,
suggesting major problems in the equality of the UK police force. The significant
contrast lies between these groups as suspects of crime. Whilst women appear to
benefit from the unequal treatment granted to them by male officers, ethnic
minorities are discriminated against to the point of pure racial prejudice, shown
by shocking statistics of stop and search for black and Asian citizens.

this, we need to consider the changing although slow progression of attitudes
in UK policing in attempt to overcome unequal treatment of these groups. Programmes
such as the BME Progression 2018 Programme attempt to deal with the issues of
under-representation of minority groups in the police force, its main
objectives including “supporting forces in improving recruitment, retention and
progression of BME officers (, 2018). Further programmes such
as the Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Strategy published by West
Yorkshire Police (2010) states that the police service aims to ensure a
proactive focus on improving services for protected groups, including sex and
race. Whilst this suggests progress in equal treatment of women and BME, these
programmes still only apply to discrimination within the police force itself,
suggesting that equal treatment of women and BME as victims and suspects of
crime still has a long way to go.








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