Exclusive: Many forces said they did not include Gypsies and Travellers in their ethnic monitoring systems
Few UK police forces record their officers’ interactions with Gypsies and Travellers, and widespread discrimination against the groups may be “hidden from view”, according to a newly published report.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that 39 out of the UK’s 48 police forces do not include Gypsies and Travellers in their ethnic monitoring systems, the research by the Traveller Movement charity found.
In their responses, two forces indicated that they did not even consider Gypsies and Travellers to be ethnic groups, even though both are officially recognised as such under UK law. As the groups are protected by equality legislation, discriminating against them is illegal.
The Traveller Movement said it had made the data requests after “increasing reports” from members of both groups that their communities were being unfairly targeted by police. “We found we were unable to verify these claims because most police systems did not have the relevant data,” said Yvonne MacNamara, the charity’s chief executive. “Recording the ethnicity of Gypsies and Travellers is essential. If [they] are not counted along with everyone else, then discriminatory policing towards them will remain hidden from view and cannot be challenged.”
The Metropolitan Police is reviewing how it deals with the communities in the wake of allegations that officers used a “secret” Facebook group to air racist views about them. The force’s official inquiry into the claims ended without any officers being formally disciplined or charged.
Many of the forces that responded to the data requests said they did not include Gypsies and Travellers in their ethnic monitoring systems because they were not required to do so by the Home Office. Some forces do so voluntarily and the Traveller Movement believes the standard system should be increased from 16 ethnic classifications to 18, so that the two extra groups are included by default.
The Home Office said forces were required to use ethnicity codes from the 2001 census; codes for Gypsies and Travellers were not added until 2011 and it is up to individual forces whether to use them.
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