Police forces need to recruit more black and ethnic minority (BME) officers in order to reflect growing diversity in British society, a chief constable has said.
Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, said there was a growing diversity problem within the police service and that he was "embarrassed" at the lack of progress to address it.
The lead spokesman on workforce development for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) wants to see a "wider interpretation of employment law and the issues which can be taken into consideration when making selection decisions".
He said his views were "not about targets or political correctness" but an operational need to have staff that can understand the diverse communities they serve and a practical need to have more BME surveillance and undercover officers.
Sir Peter also stressed that he was not calling for positive discrimination.
"The society we are policing is changing rapidly and many have criticised the police service for not reflecting this growing diversity," he said.
"This is not about targets or political correctness but an operational need to have staff from a wider range of backgrounds to resolve tensions, gather intelligence and understand the complexities created by the cultural make-up of this country.
"We are not asking for positive discrimination but support for a wider interpretation of employment law and the issues which can be taken into consideration when making selection decisions."
Budget cuts and the removal of senior posts from the service will worsen the diversity problem and reduce the opportunity for promotion to senior roles, Sir Peter said.
"We have tried very many initiatives within the law but it takes around 20 years for an officer to reach senior ranks," he said.
"There are now far fewer recruitment and promotion opportunities due to the budget cuts, so it will take many years under the current procedures to get a police force which is more reflective of the society it serves."
There are 48 black or ethnic minority superintendents and chief superintendents in England and Wales, and six chief officers - representing 3% of all chiefs, according to the Guardian.
Sir Peter told the newspaper: "It is really disappointing and frustrating, and I am embarrassed by the lack of progress."
Police Minister Damian Green said he was "struck" at how much needs to be done to improve the representation of black and minority ethnic populations, especially at senior levels, according to the newspaper.
But he added that it was not an issue for the Government to address.
"My firm belief is that the police must take ownership for these issues," he said.