Racism drives out black police

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BLACK AND Asian police officers are almost three times more likely to be sacked than their white colleagues, according to a Home Office study. The research, to be published this week, will also find it takes a black constable, on average, 18 months longer than a white counterpart to be promoted to sergeant.

At a conference for chief constables on Wednesday, Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, will outline new targets for the recruitment and retention of officers from ethnic minorities. He will use the findings of a damning survey of police forces, commissioned after the inquiry into the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence, to persuade senior officers to treble black and Asian recruitment.

He will also order them to stamp out prejudice in their ranks. Home Office research found that many of the recruited black and Asian officers were leaving because they believed their careers were being impeded by racism. Resignation rates among ethnic minority police officers are twice those of white officers, and many of those who leave express frustration that they have been discriminated against. Sixty per cent of black and Asian officers reported racism from their colleagues and believed their ethnicity had affected their careers.

This feeling tallies with the research, which shows that black police constables have to wait 18 months longer for promotion to the rank of sergeant. Asian officers have to wait an average of 12 months longer than their white contemporaries to move to the next grade. Black and Asian officers are also between two and three times more likely to be dismissed than their white colleagues.

Twenty per cent of ethnic minority officers believed that their experiences were different from their white peers; they were particularly aware that it took them longer to prove themselves in the eyes of others.

Mr Straw will tell the chief constables that the ethnic make-up of all police forces should reflect that of the community where they are based. Each force will be set a recruitment target, and chief constables who fail to redress the ethnic balance could be sacked.

However, the Home Secretary will also emphasise that keeping as well as recruiting ethnic minority officers is vital. He is worried that retention rates have fallen significantly among blacks and Asians over the past four years, while remaining static among whites.

Mr Straw believes that the fall-out reflects growing concern among ethnic minority officers that they are passed over for promotion. Although there are 2,191 black and Asian police constables in a total of 97,671 for England and Wales, there are only six superintendents among 1,237 of that rank.

In his evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Committee earlier this year, Mr Straw said he planned to impose a national target of 7 per cent of officers from ethnic minorities, with forces required to introduce quotas even in areas that are overwhelmingly white. He said he was shocked that a fifth of the forces in England and Wales had fewer than 10 officers from ethnic minority backgrounds.