The Association of Muslim Police (AMP) has written to home secretary Jacqui Smith to ask her to prevent police forces blocking its research into the potential discrimination of black, Asian and Muslim officers.
The AMP is auditing the distribution of minority officers by rank and specialism. But 20 of the 43 forces in England and Wales said data protection rules prevented them from responding.
The AMP wants Smith to intervene and order a review of racism in the police to mark the 10th anniversary of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. If that fails, the association said it would make requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
From the information it has so far received, the AMP found 95% of black, Asian and Muslim officers were in the most junior ranks, and very few were in specialist postings. Progress on diversity was “painfully slow”, it added.
The letter, leaked to the Observer, stated: “Muslim officers are being overlooked, potentially discriminated against in promotion, or are failing to receive the necessary training and personal development that would allow them to rise through the ranks.”
Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said: “Chief officers are united in their desire to lead forces whose staff better reflect the make-up of our vibrant and diverse population. Until and unless we are able to increase the diversity of those who enter the service, progress will be slower than it ought to be.”
Last week, equality minister Harriet Harman announced new measures to increase the use of positive action. Acpo said it welcomed the move as it would boost officer diversity.