Association of Chief Police Officers calls for change in employment law to give priority to women and ethnic minority police applicants

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has broken its silence to call for a change in employment law so “priority could be given to minority ethnic and female applicants”.

The police chiefs yesterday insisted they had only met to discuss further talks on such ‘affirmative action’ to increase diversity in the force.

But late last night the body released a statement backing the proposals raised by a taskforce led by Suzette Davenport, vice-chairman of the British Association for Women in Policing.

The statement, from Acpo lead on race and diversity Peter Fahy, said: “Chief constables believe there should be a debate on the future of employment targets and the case for changing the law to enable forces to employ the people they need and reflect the communities they serve.”

Fahy said that lessons had been drawn from Northern Ireland, where the police service has an equal intake of Protestant and Catholics.

“Those proposing affirmative action would ask that where applicants meet the required standard priority could be given to minority ethnic and female applicants, but only within an agreed quota and for a limited period of time,” he added.

The Home Office has given the police force a target of ensuring 7% of officers come from ethnic minorities by 2009 – compared with 3.7% today.

“What is clear is that current employment law will not allow the police service to achieve the goal of a representative police force for many years and, without such a change, current employment targets would have to be abandoned,” said Fahy. “If there is no change in the law, politicians, media and the public will have to accept that the goal of a representative workforce will take many more years than they might wish.”

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