Met police minority recruitment law change debated

Police recruits marching
Image caption Just one in 10 Met police officers is non-white

The UK's largest police force has discussed changing the law in order to recruit more non-white officers.

The Metropolitan Police say they are restricted from using recruitment to better reflect the local population.

A model has been suggested where for every white recruit, one ethnic minority officer would be taken on.

The Home Office said the idea of positive discrimination had been discussed at a high level but there were no plans to change the law.

In London 45% of the population classified themselves as "white British" in the 2011 census. But the police officers serving the city remain overwhelmingly white.

Despite 17% of the Met's new recruits coming from an ethnic minority background, around nine out of 10 officers in the force are white.

'Openly discussed'

Home Office officials are currently working with the Metropolitan Police and the College of Policing to change the ethnic make-up of the force as it lifts a freeze on recruitment.

The Met wants to recruit 5,000 new officers by 2015 and is considering changing the recruitment process and providing bursaries, coaching and extra training for ethnic minority candidates.

Going even further and changing the law to introduce a system similar to that used in Northern Ireland to even up the balance between Catholic and Protestant officers has been "openly discussed" but is not currently being proposed, a spokeswoman said.

A 50-50 recruitment process in Northern Ireland came to an end in 2011 after 10 years. The proportion of Catholics in the force rose from 8% to 30% under the controversial scheme.

According to the Guardian, Met Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne said the law as it stands "doesn't allow us to be as bold as we could be".

He said the debated plans would mean the Met "could only recruit, in very broad terms, a white officer if you can recruit a black or minority ethnic person at the same".

'Countering terrorism'

But the suggestion of introducing some form of positive discrimination has angered the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers.

Chairman of the Metropolitan Police branch John Tully told the BBC it was "aspirational" but not necessary for the police force to reflect the society it serves.

"Anyone who's selected should be chosen on their capability to do the job. The colour of their skin, their creed and their background should make no difference whatsoever," he said, adding that some communities have "an inbuilt aversion to working as police officers".

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said the force had made "good progress" and that the number of ethnic minority officers has risen from 890 in 1999 to 3,175 - about 10% of the force - in May 2013.

"We know from the 2011 census that London is more diverse than ever and that our workforce does not reflect that diversity as we would like it to, despite significant progress in recent years."

Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, said the police service was "not as effective as it could be in countering terrorism because of its ethnic make-up".

"A big part of dealing with terrorism and crime is gathering intelligence, having people who get to know local people so they have the confidence to pass information," he told the Guardian.

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