Police forces should be made to positively discriminate in favour of black and ethnic minority officers in the face of a growing diversity crisis, according to one of the country’s leading chief constables.
The radical proposal – which would mean a change in the law – from Sir Peter Fahy, of Greater Manchester, comes in the face of what he said was an embarrassing paucity of black and minority ethnic officers (BME) at the top of British policing.
Fahy, the lead spokesperson on workforce development for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), spoke as Theresa May, the home secretary, was due to announce plans this week to introduce direct entry to the service at inspector and superintendent ranks as part of the Winsor reforms.
Some chief officers believe this will help improve diversity, but Fahy said the small numbers involved would not significantly change the white face of British policing.
This year the lack of BME senior officers rising through the ranks of the service is starkly illustrated by the fact that there are none on the strategic command course – for middle-ranking officers seeking promotion to chief officer rank.
Fahy said the budget cuts and reduction in middle management within the service meant the diversity problem was only going to get worse. He wants the creation of a more diverse police service to be a legal requirement.
“This is not about targets or political correctness,” he said. “It is about operational need. Policing is unique, we need to be legitimate within the community because of the exercise of power. Often we are out there resolving disputes between communities and we need officers that understand different communities and different backgrounds.
“Then there is the practical stuff about surveillance and undercover officers. We need to be a more diverse police service. The operational need is great.”