YORKSHIRE’S police forces have been accused of failing to represent the communities they serve after new figures showed that all but a tiny fraction of their senior officers are white.
The lack of black and minority ethnic (BME) representation at the highest ranks of the region’s four forces has prompted an organisation representing black officers to question their legitimacy in policing an increasingly diverse society.
Analysis by The Yorkshire Post reveals that in the region’s four forces, none of the 50-plus officers at Chief Superintendent level or above are from a BME background, while nationally all chief constables in the country’s 43 police forces are white.
At West Yorkshire Police, just three per cent of officers at inspector level or above are non-white, despite more than 18 per cent of the county’s population not being white, and a third of all residents in Bradford.
Only eight of South Yorkshire Police’s 186 officers at inspector level or above are non-white, a rate of 3.8 per cent that is less than half that of the county’s population, according to the most recent 2011 census figures.
West Yorkshire’s Pakistani-born Deputy Chief Constable Jawaid Akhtar, the highest-ranking Asian officer in the country, retired this year, while South Yorkshire Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Max Sahota, who is of Indian origin, was recently seconded to the College of Policing.
The number of non-white senior officers at North Yorkshire and Humberside Police is also lower than in the areas they serve, but the disparity is less pronounced as they have smaller BME populations.
Rates of BME officers are generally higher at more junior levels, suggesting non-white officers are less likely than their white counterparts to progress through the ranks.
Labour, who would place a legal requirement on police to actively recruit BME officers, say “far too few” reach senior levels at Yorkshire’s constabularies.
Two of the region’s forces say dramatic budget cuts imposed on them in recent years have impacted on their ability to recruit non-white officers. And in West Yorkshire, the organisation representing officers from BME backgrounds now plays a less active role in the force after having its funding cut when police budgets were slashed nationwide.
Last month, national police chiefs called on the Government to change employment law to allow them to force an increase in officer diversity in large towns and cities, after it emerged that it will take decades for the Metropolitan Police to reach its aim of 40 per cent BME officers.
Franstine Jones, president of the National Black Police Association, said: “By 2018 it is going to be even worse, we will have a police service where we have no BME officers above the level of inspector or chief inspector.
“In an ever-increasingly diverse community that goes to the legitimacy of a police service that has a majority white police force policing a very diverse community.”
Policing Minister Mike Penning said: “It is important that police forces reflect the communities they serve and we are working to ensure the police workforce is more representative than ever before. However, we acknowledge there is still more to be done.
“Our reforms, including the new direct entry and fast-track routes into policing, are already increasing the numbers of under-represented groups in senior ranks.”
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