'Shocking' lack of police diversity requires 'radical action'

Only 5.5% of UK police officers are from BME backgrounds Credit: PA

A "shocking" under-representation of black and minority ethnic people (BME) within UK police forces requires "radical action," a government committee has warned.

The Home Affairs committee's comments follow a finding that no force in England and Wales has a BME representation matching its local demographic

Government ministers have now been urged to appoint a new diversity champion to tackle the issue and hold the force to account.

Figures from 2015 show that only 5.5% of UK officers were from BME backgrounds, compared to 14% of the population.

Representation is "even lower" in the senior ranks, according to the committee's report.

MP Keith Vaz described the figures as Credit: PA

Of 201 chief officers, only two self-identify as BME, while 11 police forces have no BME officers above the rank of chief inspector, according to previously published data.

Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the committee, said: "The lack of black and minority ethnic representation in our police forces is stark and shocking, and no one looking at this picture can believe it promotes effective policing.

"In order to police by consent in 21st-Century Britain, the police service must mirror the communities they represent, in religion, race and ethnicity."

He added: "If we compare the figures from 1999 and 2015, representation of the population in our police forces has progressed at a snail's pace.

"This was unacceptable in 1999 and it's totally unacceptable now. It is as if the Macpherson report was never written.

"Despite good intentions from senior officers, diversity and representation in police forces has consistently failed to improve, we must take radical action now."

Stephen Lawrence was killed in a racially-motivated attack in 1993 Credit: PA

The Macpherson report on the Stephen Lawrence case, published in 1999, found evidence of "institutional racism" in the Metropolitan Police.

Now the committee has outlined a number of steps to be taken.

These include calls for Home Secretary Theresa May - who attacked the lack of black and minority ethnic officers and women in the police service in a speech last year - to appoint a national "Diversity Champion" by May next year.

Superintendent Manjit Thandi, diversity lead at the College of Policing, said: "Police need to represent the communities they serve and right now that is not happening enough.

"We are tackling this and have already delivered a bespoke evaluation and action plan to all 43 police forces to improve the recruitment, development, progression and retention of BME officers and staff".

Robin Wilkinson, of the Met Police, said the force "has done more than any force to improve representation from BME communities and we are pleased the committee has recognised that commitment".

He said nearly 30% of new recruits this year will be from BME backgrounds.

"On current projections, the MPS will reach 4,000 BME officers this summer", he said.

"This is an increase of 75% over 10 years and an increase of 24% since 2012.

"BME officers are represented in the MPS at every rank up to and including Assistant Commissioner".