‘Positive discrimination’ call to boost recruitment of black police officers

Calls for positive discrimination in police recruitment campaigns have been made after analysis found black officers are under-represented in most England and Wales forces, even among BAME staff.

The National Black Police Association says disproportionate use of police powers on black people means fewer members of the community are attracted to policing as a career.

It added that grouping communities together under the umbrella term BAME leads to police forces not understanding the unique needs of individual groups and their levels of trust in the police.

People from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds accounted for 73.0 in 1,000 officers who stated their ethnicity across the 43 police forces in England and Wales at the end of March, according to Home Office figures.

This was an increase from 69.4 the previous year and the highest proportion since records began, although the Home Office said it still “considerably under-represents” the proportion of the population who are BAME – 145.2 per 1,000 people, according to population estimates from the Government Statistical Service.

But new analysis of the figures published on Thursday reveal a worse disparity for black people alone – while 12.6 per 1,000 officers were black, they make up 33.7 per 1,000 of the population.

This means the black population rate was almost three times higher than within the police, compared to two times higher for people from BAME backgrounds as a whole.

The gap was wider for black people specifically in about two-thirds of forces.

Rates were calculated using police force area population estimates from mid-2016 – the latest year with an ethnicity breakdown.

Andy George, president of the National Black Police Association, said police forces have been too slow and inconsistent in addressing a lack of diversity in their ranks.

He said: “Black communities are facing the most disproportionate use of police powers, particularly stop and search and use of force.

“This will inevitably lead to fewer members of the community seeing policing as a viable career.”

Mr George said the Government’s pledge to recruit 20,000 extra officers by 2023 offered a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to make police forces reflective of the communities they serve.

He added: “The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the Government need to be bolder in their approach to this and advocate for a short period of positive discrimination during the uplift.”

The death of George Floyd while in police custody in the US on May 25 sparked protests across the world, including in many UK towns and cities.

It has reignited debates over racism, and the relationship between the police and black communities.

A report released earlier this year by the Police Foundation think tank said increasing levels of diversity in police forces since 2007 had mainly been driven by the recruitment of Asian and mixed-ethnicity officers, while black representation had “barely increased”.

Ian Hopkins, the NPCC’s lead for diversity, equality and inclusion, said: “The slower rate of progress in recruiting black police officers is likely to reflect the fact that confidence in police has historically been lower among black people than white or Asian.”

But he added that the drive to recruit 20,000 new officers was a “generational opportunity” to address this.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The Government wants to see people from all backgrounds joining the police, with police forces that are representative of the community they serve.

“That’s why the Home Secretary has today written to police chiefs to urge them to grasp the opportunity the recruitment of 20,000 additional officers presents when it comes to diversifying the police.

“The Home Secretary has also discussed this issue with police leaders via the National Policing Board and is clear that she wants officers from all backgrounds to be able to progress up the ranks.”