The South West and Wales Black Police Association (BPA) will be putting diversity in policing under the spotlight at a regional conference in Wiltshire next week.

Hosted by the BPA Wiltshire branch, more than 200 delegates from the eight police forces across the region are expected to attend the Opening Doors regional diversity conference at a top Swindon hotel on Wednesday.

Speakers include Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Mike Veale, president of the National Black Police Association Tola Munro and Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon Angus Macpherson. National experts on disability, working with diverse communities, employment law and equality - including unconscious bias - will also be speaking.

Conference organiser Wiltshire BPA chairman Sergeant Ronnie Lungu said he was pleased Wiltshire was hosting such a prestigious event. He hopes it will be a great opportunity for police leaders, staff associations, local authorities and partners to share ideas on a range of diversity themes, including LGBT+, disability, and black, minority and ethnic (BME) representation in policing.

He said: “There is a lot of really good work going on across the region to make our police forces reflect the communities they serve. There is still much to be done, especially retention and progression of BME colleagues. I want us to celebrate success, but also challenge ourselves to continue to innovate and develop.”

Mr Veale said diversity was something he had been passionate about during his time as Wiltshire Police Chief Constable and was looking forward to hearing the views of the delegates across the region.

He said: “Inclusion, diversity and equality is not about political correctness. It’s about having a confident, talented team of people who trust and value each other and provide high quality services to every single member of the community, whoever they are and however they live.

“A representative and diverse workforce can only be achieved if you put in the hard yards. You need to change the culture, leadership style, promotion process, work environment and, on occasion, the people. For any organisation to flourish, it must have strong, ethical and values based leaders, and that is what we have achieved in Wiltshire Police.

“This is not an easy task; it takes time and emotional commitment from the very top. Leaders must be committed and there should be no hiding places or opportunities for excuses to capture the trust and confidence of your staff and nurture diverse skills and talents.”

Mr Macpherson believes the Force’s recent recruitment drive, focusing on the need for a diverse workforce, is central to improving the representation of staff and officers.

He said: “I’m excited to learn more about the experiences of our colleagues in other forces, sharing good practice and opening up an important conversation about diversity.

“Having police officers and staff from different backgrounds and with different life experiences will mean we have the best possible chance of engaging with our communities and encouraging them to have trust in the police.”