Smith orders review amid police race row

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Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced a nationwide assessment of how ethnic minorities are treated by the police as the race row surrounding the Metropolitan force continued.

Police minister Vernon Coaker will carry out a rapid, two-week examination of the recruitment and promotion prospects of minorities, Ms Smith said.

The move follows London mayor Boris Johnson's launch of an inquiry in to racism in the Met and the Metropolitan Black Police Association's (MetBPA) pledge to discourage minorities from working there.

Ms Smith said she was "disappointed" by the move, and said the group's advertising campaign to discourage ethnic minorities applicants to the Met was "unhelpful".

She said the police service had "come a long way" since the publication of the Macpherson Report, which identified institutional racism in the Met.

She said: "We need a police service which understands the communities it serves and which represents those communities and the whole country - and that is what we should work together to achieve.

"That is why I have today asked Policing Minister Vernon Coaker to assess ethnic minority recruitment and progression nationally across the police service.

"He will do this in conjunction with police representatives, including the Police Federation, Superintendent's Association, and Acpo and will report to me on any further action necessary within two weeks."

The Home Office stressed the move was not a review, suggesting swift changes to recruitment practices and promotion policy are unlikely.

Ms Smith said: "The police service is determined to offer fair and equal opportunities to all its members, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or background.

"Since the publication of the Macpherson report they have come a long way: over the last ten years minority ethnic representation in the police service has doubled. However, we accept there is a long way to go, and we are determined to work with the police to achieve that.

"Nationally I am working closely with the police to continue to support them recruit people from all backgrounds.

"An advertising campaign to dissuade ethnic minority applications to the police service is unhelpful.

"I am disappointed that the Metropolitan Black Police Association has decided on this course of action and hope that it doesn't undo the significant progress made to date."

Muslim police groups refused to support the boycott. Members of the National Association of Muslim Police (Namp) said they had "reservations" about discouraging potential black and Asian recruits.

Superintendent Dal Babu said he understood some of the concerns, but added Scotland Yard was making progress in improving race and faith relations.

Scotland Yard is already embroiled in an acrimonious race row with the country's most senior Asian police officer, Tarique Ghaffur, who has been stripped of his duties as he prepares a race discrimination case against the force and its former commissioner, Sir Ian Blair.

Several weeks ago, the MPA suspended Commander Ali Dizaei, president of the National Black Police Association, over alleged misconduct.

At its first meeting since Mr Johnson took over as chair, members of the Metropolitan Police Authority attacked the mayor for not consulting members over the inquiry.

Following the criticisms, Mr Johnson said he would review how the race inquiry was handled. He insisted he would work "hand in glove" with members of the MPA and wanted to make a fresh start.

He said the review, led by deputy MPA chairwoman Cindy Butts, would explore race and faith issues within the force.

Ken Jones, chief constable of Sussex Police and president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said the MetBPA's advice was "regrettable".

"I and all chief officers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland roundly reject that advice and ask the MetBPA to reconsider," he said.

"Since the Lawrence inquiry police officers and staff have collectively grappled with reforms which have changed the culture within the service for the better.

"Mistakes have been made but there has been real and lasting improvements too."

Mr Jones urged people of all backgrounds to join the police to make neighbourhoods safer, and said chief constables would do all they could to make sure they were treated well.