He told the annual conference of the Black Police Association in London that it was "not enough for forces to pay lip-service to the ethos of equal opportunities". Sitting beside the Home Secretary, Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, told the conference that the death of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence had "shamed" his force into implementing what he described as "the most comprehensive programme for an anti-racist police service anywhere in the world".
Sir Paul said: "The tragedy of Stephen Lawrence's death and the aftermath has in many ways shamed the Met into action and facing up to its responsibilities in many areas."
The Commissioner said he would not be happy until 20 percent of the force's officers came from ethnic minorities, mirroring the racial diversity of Greater London. He said: "We should be reflecting the demography of the great city that we serve and that can be the only challenge for me."
Sir Paul said the force had made progress in ethnic recruitment and that the number of Asian officers had increased by 50 per cent in the past five years to a total of 862. But he added: "We need to be making more rapid progress." Sir Paul came under pressure from the chairman of the BPA, Inspector Paul Wilson, who insisted that "institutional racism" did exist within the Met, something that the Commissioner repeatedly denied to the Lawrence inquiry and refuted again yesterday.
Inspector Wilson said: "We have to move from a monocultural organisation serving a multicultural society to an organisation which supports multicultural diversity."
He called on the Met to promote more positive images of black people. "I'm not advocating that the Commissioner should hang a poster of Bob Marley in his office," he said. "But how many images do you see of a black face in posters in a police station without the word `suspect' underneath?"
Although forces will be closely monitored on how many ethnic officers they recruit, Mr Straw said he had not yet decided whether those that failed to meet targets would be penalised in their budgets.
He said: "The police service is not alone in facing this problem - all the uniformed services face it ... the Prison Service, the armed forces ... the Fire Service has a considerably worse record than the police."
Mr Straw said that if police forces were to represent the ethnic diversity of the population there would have to be a new confidence in the service among black and Asian communities.
"We have got to change cultural prejudices in favour of going into the police service," he said. "The police service has got to change first and make it an environment which is more amenable, but we have got to get people coming forward who have suitable qualifications."
But Sir Herman Ouseley, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said many police officers were still not doing enough to instil confidence in black members of the public. He said that only last weekend the Fulham footballer Rufus Brevitt had been subjected to appalling treatment by Millwall supporters who had repeatedly racially abused him and tried to come on to the pitch to attack him.Reuse content