A Home Office report on the current breakdown of police service personnel discloses that the total number of ethnic minority officers has increased from 2,483 to 2,520 in the past 12 months across all 43 police forces in England and Wales.
The rate of recruitment and retention of non-white officers is actually falling. The previous year, the number of such officers went up by 143.
The latest figures emerge in spite of numerous pledges to follow equal opportunities policies by chief constables around the country in response to the publicity surrounding the death of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence.
Black groups were furious yesterday at the lack of progress made by forces after demands by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, for police to make greater efforts to recruit ethnic minority officers.
Last night Lee Jasper, director of the 1990 Trust, said: "It is absolutely appalling that when the most serious debate on racism and the police for many years was taking place, there was almost no effort being made to recruit in the black communities. At this rate it will take hundreds of years to achieve a fully representative police service."
The figures in the Home Office report cover the 12 months to 31 March 1999, when only 2 per cent of police officers were from ethnic minorities and 87 per cent of these held the rank of constable.
The previous October, Mr Straw had told the Black Police Association in London he intended to set targets for every force for the recruitment, retention and promotion of officers from ethnic minorities. Mr Straw said it was "not enough for forces to pay lip- service to the ethos of equal opportunities".
The Home Secretary has since set targets designed to make forces reflect the communities they serve. The Metropolitan Police must recruit 5,662 ethnic minority officers by 2009.
Last night Paul Whitehouse, Chief Constable of Sussex and chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers' personnel and management committee, said it was too early after the Lawrence report to see a large increase in the numbers of ethnic minority officers. He said: "We also have to remember that a very substantial number of forces did not recruit anyone at all last year."
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