Targets set in drive to combat racism

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A NEW drive to recruit thousands more black and Asian police officers as a means of combating racism in the ranks will be announced today by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw.

Targets will be imposed on the country's forces for finding new recruits, and for promoting and retaining those already in the service. The levels at which these will be set, and the sanctions to be imposed on those forces that fail to do so, will be announced by the end of the year.

The move comes after The Independent revealed last week that 12 forces admitted the presence of racist officers in their ranks.

Last night, Alun Michael, the Home Office minister, said "heads will roll" among police chiefs if they fail to meet tough targets on recruiting more black and Asian officers.

He said: "The point about targets is we look and see if change is happening at the pace that's required.

"The police service will recognise the fact that there's an imperative in the way the Home Secretary is putting it."

In a speech to the Black and Asian Police Association in London today, Mr Straw will admit that people from these ethnic minorities are most likely to feel that their complaints to the police are not taken seriously enough.

"Every constable on the beat acts as a shop window for the service. Too many members of the ethnic minority communities feel that they are not getting the service they deserve," he will say. "A police force that fails to reflect the ethnic diversity of the society it serves will never secure the full support of all sections of society."

According to latest figures, only 2,483 of a total force of 124,885 officers in England and Wales are black or Asian.