On the heels of the McPherson Report on the inquiry into the death of black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, with its criticism of a culture of “institutionalised racism”, police forces throughout the UK had a long, hard look at their attitude towards the minority ethnic population.
In order to get an insight into reported racially discriminatory practices in the internal operations of the Scottish police service, the Scottish Executive Central Research Unit commissioned the prominent Equal Opportunity Advisor, Daniel Onifade, to conduct a comprehensive in-house research.
In May 2002, Mr. Onifade presented his report ‘The Experience of Black/Minority Ethnic Police Officers, Support Staff, Special Constables and Resigners in Scotland’, which found that an overwhelming number of the minority ethnic police staff interviewed felt they have been the victims of varying forms of racism and inequitable practices within the Service.
Armed with those findings, coupled with Her Majesty’s Chief Inspectorate of Constabulary’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ report into racism in the Scottish police service, all minority ethnic staff were invited to attend a seminar at Dunblane to discuss the way forward. From this assembly, it was clear that more needed to be done to directly address a number of issues and, more importantly, support and advice minority ethnic employees.
Against that background, Supporting Ethnic Minority Police employees for Equality in Race, SEMPERscotland, was formed.
It was publicly inaugurated on October 14, 2003 by former Justice Minister, Cathy Jamieson, at the Police College, Tulliallan Castle. At the launch it received wide-ranging support from, among others, the Lord Advocate, the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS), the Commission for Racial Equality and the Scottish Executive. The then First Minister, Jack McConnell, welcomed the initiative and pledged his “support for the aims of SEMPER Scotland as part of the wider recognition by the police service of the need to address the concerns of minority groups”.
SEMPER Scotland became fully operational in January 2005.