The Metropolitan police is considering using a quota system to raise the number of ethnic minority officers in the force, its new commissioner has revealed.
But Ian Blair, the UK’s most senior police officer, said the highly controversial use of positive discrimination would be a “last resort” if other measures failed to increase the representation of non-whites.
Blair, in an interview with the Independent, conceded that his force would fail to reach the Home Office target of having 25% of officers from ethnic minorities by 2009. The current number of non-white officers is about 2,150, or 7%, although ethnic minorities account for about 17% of all new recruits.
An alternative would be to change the law and alter the Race Relations Act to allow positive discrimination, he said.
Blair said his force could in future adopt a similar procedure to the quota system operated in Northern Ireland, where an equal number of Catholic and Protestant officers are hired. He said he had discussed the issue with Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality.
The commissioner outlined several measures that his force would introduce to boost the number of ethnic minority recruits. These included giving priority to applicants with language skills, graduates, and Londoners – all categories in which there was a disproportionately high number of ethnic minorities.
But he said: “The one thing we will not do, is lower the basic standard.”