Minority recruits 'should join Met at a higher rank'

Police recruits from a black, minority or ethnic background should be allowed to join Britain's biggest force at a higher rank than constable in a bid to increase diversity among senior officers, a new report has suggested.

The report, commissioned by London's Mayor, Boris Johnson, says that the Metropolitan Police is not doing enough to retain and promote black, minority and ethnic officers.

The claims are backed up by figures which show that minority candidates applying for posts above the rank of inspector at Scotland Yard have a 9 per cent success rate, compared to a 23 per cent success rate for non-minority candidates. And, of the 38 most senior officers at the Metropolitan Police – those above the rank of commander – none is from a minority background.

It is a problem replicated nationally. A recent survey for Jane's Police Review showed that, of the 269 officers of Association of Chief Police Officer rank in the UK – those ranked assistant chief constable or above – only four are from a minority background.

Among the report's recommendations to change this within the Met are that single-point entry, which requires every police officer to start as a constable and work their way through every police rank, should be abolished. Instead, officers should be allowed to start at a higher position and skip certain ranks.

The report, compiled by the Metropolitan Police Authority, also suggests fast-tracking minority police community support officers, allowing them to become fully-warranted PCs quickly. And it says that the assessment process for promotion to senior rank should be external, so as to eliminate prejudice against minority candidates.

Ever since being labelled "institutionally racist" following the Macpherson Report into the handling of the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry, the Met has fought to shake off the tag. But in 2008 it was stung by the decision of Tarique Ghaffur, one of Britain's most senior minority officers, to take the then Commissioner Sir Ian Blair to an employment tribunal, alleging racism.

In the wake of this the Metropolitan Black Police Association announced it was encouraging potential minority recruits to boycott the force.

The report says that, while the force was not racist or "riddled with... bias and prejudice", it found "a number of examples of poor practice which give rise to perceived and, at times, real discrimination." It added: "If the Metropolitan Police Service is to succeed in retaining minority staff... it must focus on the barriers to progression. [Black, minority and ethnic] officers are concentrated at the lower ranks... If police officers could join the MPS at ranks higher than constable, the MPS could change its profile radically."

But while the report accepts the force is no longer a racist environment, one officer strongly disagreed. David MacFarlane, of the Metropolitan Black Police Association, said: "When I joined in 1980 I was called a nigger. Now I'm treated like one. It hasn't improved – it just comes in a different way, and that's what we need to address."

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said: "The report acknowledges the significant progress made by the MPS in addressing the issues of equality and diversity. We recognise there is still more to do. We will now be considering the recommendations in the report."