A new initiative to build community relations between police and ethnic minority communities has begun this week in Wiltshire.

The first in a series of community conversations organised by Wiltshire Police was held as part of the Force’s drive to improve diversity and inclusion.

Two online meetings held earlier this week, called The Big Debate, saw 30 members of the public from ethnic minorities across the county giving their candid views on policing and how the Force can make tangible improvements for the future.

The sessions were hosted by an independent facilitator, supported by Chief Constable Kier Pritchard, Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills and Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Jerry Herbert.

Topics ranged from feedback on the use of police powers, mainly around stop and search, experiences of individuals applying to join the police and general levels of trust and confidence.

There was a strong call for more active follow up on crime reporting - even if there is insufficient evidence to proceed - so that victims feel it is worth reporting and understand what action has been taken.

Ideas for how Wiltshire Police can better connect with ethnic minority communities centred on education – police officers and police staff being much more active in schools from the earliest age to help children develop trust and confidence in the police.

Also, for more active participation in community events such as street stalls, food festivals and being present at other local events where people spend their leisure time.

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills, who leads for Wiltshire Police on equality, diversity and inclusion, said: “We are really pleased with how these first sessions went and the honest feedback we got.

“People gave their opinions on policing very freely – the good and the bad. We will take note of all the points raised and the brilliant ideas that came forward.

"I will be leading a session with our senior leadership team to review the feedback and what we are going to do differently, or do more of, as a result,” he added.

Police recruitment was another key theme and a push for the police to continue its efforts to employ more ethnic minorities and feature more ethnic minority police officers and police staff in positive stories in the media.

“Diversity in the police workforce is incredibly important and this work needs to be stepped up to ensure the Force truly reflects the public it is here to serve,” said Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Jerry Herbert.

“The Force is under-represented in the numbers of police officers who are female or from an ethnic minority background and this needs to change - we heard in the conversations that people want to see ‘more people like me’, which is absolutely right.

“Visible and proactive communication is key for workplace diversity and also from a victim perspective.

"The Force needs to do more to ensure that all victims of crime have some sort of outcome when they come forward to report a crime, however minor,” he added.

Wiltshire Police has a number of independent advisory groups on policing, including a Diverse Communities Group.

New members are always welcome – please visit www.wiltshire.police.uk and search for ‘Diverse Communities’ to find out more about its work and how to join.