Programme director appointed for Police Race Action Plan to help ‘build trust and legitimacy’

T/Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dr Alison Heydari has been appointed interim programme director for the Police Race Action Plan.

Sep 5, 2023
By Paul Jacques
T/Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dr Alison Heydari

Working with communities, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), national portfolio leads (including stop and search), the College of Policing, chief constables and police officers and staff, her priority will be focusing on what will build trust, confidence and legitimacy.

This will include a comprehensive community strategy and delivery plan, ensuring meaningful engagement with stakeholders, and prioritising activity that will make the biggest positive difference to black communities.

Dr Heydari, who has progressed through the ranks to become the most senior black female police officer in the UK, will also ensure that those “carrying out this vital work have the necessary resources to do it well”.

Previously a commander for the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), Dr Heydari will also work in collaboration with the Independent Scrutiny and Oversight Board (ISOB), the National Black Policing Association (NBPA) and a range of organisations and stakeholders with roles and expertise in anti-racism.

The plan was launched in 2020, following the murder of George Floyd and the resulting Black Lives Matter movement. The plan sets out actions needed to build an anti-racist police service and address race disparities affecting black people working within or interacting with policing.

Dr Heydari said: “Policing has come a long way over my 23 year policing career, we are now more inclusive and diverse than we have ever been. However, there is still much to be done to remove all discrimination and gain the trust and confidence of our black staff and members of the public.

“I am honoured to take on the role of programme director. It is vital, for the fundamental legitimacy of UK policing, that we achieve the commitments of the Police Race Action Plan.

“At the core of the plan, is the recognition that we need to involve black people and to listen to their views at every stage of activity undertaken.

“The plan is rightly ambitious and challenging. Inviting black people, stakeholders, and ISOB to directly scrutinise pilots, evaluations, policies, practices and procedures is a new way of working for policing, and one I am proud to be part of delivering. It is only when we involve those who are most effected by our activity, to work with us on trialling new ways of working, that we can authentically achieve progress.”

She added: “Racism still exists in policing and that is unacceptable. Recent reports such as the Casey Review and media reports of racist incidents, highlight how important it is that we now work at pace to achieve change for black people.”

Dr Heydari said there have been “inspiring levels of determination and innovation on the Police Race Action Plan”.

These include:

  • The creation of a new reporting system for vehicle stops;
  • Utilising technology, including augmented reality, to support officer learning;
  • Improving accessibility for members of the public to join advisory and scrutiny panels; and
  • Creating national guidance for a range of areas including pre-record on body-worn videos.

“There is a wealth of activity currently being undertaken to achieve the commitments of the plan, both nationally and at local policing levels,” said Dr Heydari.

“The next few months will be imperative, I will be working at pace with the NPCC, College of Policing, black stakeholders and chief constables to set the plan’s next stage of delivery.

NPCC chair, Gavin Stephens, who confirmed the appointment on Tuesday (September 5), said: “I am delighted to welcome Alison as the interim programme director of the Police Race Action Plan. The wide-ranging and vast experience she brings to her role, is a real asset for the plan.

“Removing discrimination in our service remains a key priority for myself and all chief constables.

“Whilst building an anti-racist policing service is a momentous undertaking, I am confident that with Alison taking a lead, the plan will achieve our ambitions, and provide a policing service that can be trusted by everyone we serve.”

ISOB chair Abimbola Johnson said the appointment of Dr Heydari “fills an important vacancy in the programme structure where key leadership is required”.

She added: “We hope that Dr Heydari will provide a fresh perspective on the plan that will incorporate the innovative thinking required to deliver its anti-racist goal.

“As highlighted in our first annual report, there are key opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for the Race Action Plan.”

Ms Johnson said the board has outlined its “key recommendations” for the next stages of the Race Action Programme, including:

  • Restructuring the Race Action Programme to better reflect an anti-racism programme;
  • Provision of adequate resourcing to the Plan;
  • An increase in engagement with external stakeholders;
  • The development and delivery of a clear communications strategy;
  • Tangible and measurable performance metrics;
  • Identification of clear areas of focus; and
  • Improvements to the flow of information to the ISOB.

Ms Johnson said: “We hope that our feedback serves as a blueprint for how the Race Action Plan can become an actionable, robust, and genuinely anti-racist programme of work that the public deserves.”

“We look forward to working with Dr Heydari to ensure that the Race Action Plan achieves the aims it set out to accomplish three years ago.”

Dr Heydari’s career began in 2000 as a student officer at Hampshire Constabulary. She was enrolled onto the Home Office Accelerated Promotion Scheme for Graduates, seeing her promoted to sergeant with just over two years of service.

Dr Heydari has a 22-year track record in driving change in equality, diversity and inclusion.  She has also worked in a wide range of specialist roles including, public protection, criminal investigations, hate crime, human trafficking and child abuse.

Her operational experience has been complemented by secondments to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services and teaching at John Jay College of Criminal Justice New York.

She is also a trained negotiator, and a public order and public safety Gold commander.

Dr Heydari joined the MPS in June 2020, serving as a frontline policing commander, with additional responsibility for a number of portfolios, including, as lead for neighbourhood policing. Her passion for the implementation of procedural justice is reflected in her commentaries, published papers and research.

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