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Most police appointments ‘disproportionately white’

Home secretary Theresa May is being urged to ask the Inspectorate for Constabulary to investigate the under-representation of minority groups in the UK’s regional police forces after it emerged that 31 of 45 territorial forces appoint a greater proportion of white applicants than the population would suggest.

According to a Guardian investigation based on Freedom of Information data, those who identify themselves as being from a black or minority ethnic (BME) background have significantly less chances of being employed. More than four-fifths of forces appoint a disproportionately low number of minorities when compared to the makeup of the areas police serve.

Jack Dromey MP, Labour’s shadow police minister, said the worrying figures strengthened the argument that communities must be policed by forces that reflect their own makeup.

“Theresa May must ask the Inspector of Constabulary to investigate this issue immediately and bring this report to Parliament so we can find out why so many BME applicants are failing to be selected by so many English police forces,” he said.

“Enormous cuts to the police service, with 17,000 going in the last five years, has made it more difficult to make progress on diversity, not least because several forces have seen recruitment freezes.”

May has already criticised the police for failing to employ people from ethnic minorities during a speech in October. Addressing a National Black Police Association (NBPA) conference, the home secretary said not one of the country’s 43 forces accurately reflected the communities they serve, with four authorities – Cheshire, North Yorkshire, Dyfed-Powys and Durham – having an entirely white staff pool. Eleven forces also had no officers from ethnic minorities above the rank of chief inspector.

In its investigation, the Guardian said the Met, West Midlands and Bedfordshire forces were amongst the least proportionately representative, followed by those serving London, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Surrey.

But more than three-quarters of the country’s forces also received disproportionately low numbers of applications from people from minority backgrounds.

The NBPA’s new president, Janet Hills, told the paper that this proved the need for greater scrutiny and accountability of police chiefs who fail to reflect their communities: “We find that, where there is no accountability, nothing gets done. It is unfortunate because everyone will talk the talk but, when it comes to the action, that is not so visible.

“On the national level, you have got fewer forces recruiting, you have got the legacy of the community engagement, so there are the trust and confidence issues instilled in communities. One example is stop and search. Nationally, it is disproportionately more BAME people being stopped. So, ultimately, just on that alone, you are not making friends.”

Chief constable Giles York, of the National Police Chiefs Council, said this situation is already improving, but admitted that there is still “much more to do” to ensure forces better reflect their local areas to build trust and improve ties with the public.

“The rate of officer recruitment from black and minority ethnic communities is increasing. It has risen from 3.6% in 2006 to 5.5% in 2015. Forces have encouraged more BAME people to join the police,” he said.

“There’s much more to do and, with reduced budgets constraining recruitment, it is difficult to move at the pace we need to. Police chiefs are committed to continuing to do everything they can to increase diversity in the service, working with the College of Policing, but there are no quick or easy solutions within current legislation.”


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