College of Policing boss warns that law may need to change to put more minority officers on beat.
The chief constable overseeing police recruitment in England and Wales has warned ministers that they may need to change the law to allow forces in major cities to positively discriminate in favour of black and ethnic minority officers.
Alex Marshall, (pictured), head of the new College of Policing, said quotas, as used in Northern Ireland, may be necessary to ensure a radical overhaul of the racial makeup of urban forces. Following the inquest into the lawful police shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham, north London, the racial makeup of the police has become a contentious issue. The prime minister has added his voice to those who want to see minority faces in the police.
Marshall, appointed last year as chief executive of the new professional body for policing, said it was vital to have major progress in the next few months towards changing the racial mix of forces as recruitment of officers restarts after a three-year freeze, but that legislation may well prove necessary.
â€œWe will reach a point with the numbers needed in the big city forces where we have to ask ourselves does the current law give us enough scope,â€ he said. â€œWe are still exploring those boundaries, and there is lots that can be done, but we do need to keep an eye on what are the legislative barriers to us going even further and what can be learned from Northern Ireland.
â€œYou canâ€™t have positive discrimination in England and Wales. If you look at the Northern Ireland experience there was a temporary change in the law to allow 50:50 recruitment from the two main communities and that allowed the Police Service of Northern Ireland to rebalance very quickly and then change the law back.â€
He added: â€œWe are at the beginning of the latest round of recruiting and there are lots of good things that can happen but when we start extrapolating our progress in a few monthsâ€™ time we need to be honest about whether we are going to get there in that 10-year period.â€
Nationally, 14% of the population is from black and multi-ethnic communities, compared with 5% of police officers. Only 10% of Metropolitan police officers are from an ethnic minority population, compared with 55% of Londoners.
Marshall, formerly the chief constable of Hampshire police, in which role he won an award last year for promoting the interests of lesbian and gay officers, said: â€œThere are lots of forces with relatively low black and multi-ethnic populations and they are already starting to do really well on recruiting. It is a much harder challenge for the big city forces. The Met are really pushing the boundaries; they are trying incredibly hard to recruit Londoners who represent people of London in the way they are and the way they look, from all races and all populations.â€
Under Labourâ€™s 2010 Equalities Act, police forces can recruit an officer from black and multi-ethnic communities over an equally qualified candidate on the grounds of improving the diversity of their staff.
In November 2013, the Observer has learned, the government issued guidance to police forces to encourage them to use such â€œpositive actionâ€.
Marshall said the College of Policing was also encouraging such a policy but that he believed it had had limited value. He said: â€œPeople seem keen to push the boundaries of positive action but the legal understanding is that if it is two people competing for the same job then that is fine. But that would only happen if it was very senior people competing for the same job. That doesnâ€™t help in terms of recruiting [groups]. The Met police are recruiting a thousand people at the moment.â€
Last month the College of Policing held a conference to promote policies that could change the racial profile of forces once they start recruiting. In Merseyside, chief superintendent Rowley Moore said he had established a mentoring scheme for 18-year-olds interested in joining the police who were from minority communities, were gay or lesbian, or of a faith that is underrepresented within the local force.
Police recruiting chief says force needs positive discrimination