Recruitment of black police officers has been “stubbornly slow”, the Home Secretary said as she vowed to try to improve representation in the “top jobs”.
Priti Patel said forces “should be diverse” and although there have been “substantial gains” in Greater Manchester Police, Surrey and Nottinghamshire, warned: “Progress on the recruitment of black officers has been stubbornly slow and we know we have so much more to do.”
Speaking to the National Black Police Association’s annual conference, Ms Patel said she still faces racism and sexism “today”, adding: “And I know that you have all had your own similar experiences.”
In a recorded speech played to the audience on Wednesday, she said there was “still far too much for all of us to do” to address “active hostility to someone who looks like you being in the police. Both on and off the beat”, adding “we still need to improve representation in the police, very much including in the top jobs”.
The proportion of officers in England and Wales who identify as black and Asian stands at 7.6% – the highest percentage since records began.
In the year to June, more than 11% of officers recruited were from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Nationally, around a third of officers are female – also the highest proportion on record – Ms Patel told delegates, adding: “A larger proportion of female officers from ethnic minority backgrounds are in lower ranking roles compared to white officers.”
Police bosses “vary in how seriously they take this issue”, she said, adding that this needs to change “immediately”, adding: “I want you to know that you are pushing at an open door with me.
“There needs to be major and enduring change.”
Describing recruiting people from diverse backgrounds to the police as a “critical and personal priority for me”, she said: “Diversity does not mean lowering standards – that’s complete nonsense.
“On the contrary, policing misses out on a big pool of talent when the broadest range of people, irrespective of your background, are not encouraged to join the police.”
The College of Policing is carrying out a consultation on police officer promotions to “support the progression of all officers from all backgrounds in the service” which will consider developing a new “national fast track inspector to superintendent programme”, she said, adding that there will also be an independent review of the Strategic Command Course and the Senior Police National Assessment Centre – the gateways to senior chief officer ranks – which will look at “how our officers are prepared for senior leadership and why more diverse talent is not yet breaking through”.