Dee Collins, who took on the job 22 months ago after predecessor Mark Gilmore was suspended, was asked by MPs why only 5.1 per cent of the force’s officers came from BME (black and minority ethnic groups).
In the county’s population as a whole, an evidence session of the Home Affairs Select Committee was told, 18.3 per cent of the population are from BME backgrounds.
Miss Collins was today asked by committee chairman Keith Vaz how many BME officers had been taken on in her 22-month tenure.
She replied, “very few”, adding that Government budget cuts in the last five years meant the force had lost 1,100 officers and found it very difficult to recruit.
Miss Collins denied she was laying the blame at the door of the Government but said she was “simply not able to recruit because we did not have the opportunity”. She said the force had done a lot of work “in terms of culture” to prepare for being in a position to recruit.
Miss Collins said West Yorkshire had re-initiated the promotions process last Autumn and as a result had promoted two BME officers to Chief Superintendent and two to Superintendent.
Asked how diversity could be improved, she replied: “This is entirely about leadership, it is about culture. It is about opportunity, which was my point earlier about my ability to bring new people into the organisation.
“I am pleased to say that as a result of the recent settlement I am in a position in the next 12 months to bring in 600 new police officers, a number of PCSOs and a number police staff into the organisation.
“From my perspective it is a huge opportunity to take the learning from both West Midlands Police and the Met and others, about how we proactively encourage people from other under-represented groups, including BME, to come and join us.”
Earlier this year, police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson revealed that West Yorkshire Police was to recruit from the general public for the first time in five years, but said that only 300 new officers would be taken on.
Miss Collins said today that the crime commissioner asked her about recruiting from diverse backgrounds “almost every time we have a conversation”.
In an interview with The Yorkshire Post last year, Miss Collins said her force was “not where I want it to be” in terms of ethnic diversity and faced challenges in allowing female officers to advance their careers in the face of dramatic budget cuts.
The select committee recently produced a report which highlighted the fact that none of the 43 police chief constables in England and Wales were from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background.
MPs called for more to be done to improve diversity among the senior ranks of the nation’s police forces, and claimed that in the majority of recent cases the chief constable’s job was given to the deputy chief constable from the same force.