Police chiefs have admitted they face a massive task convincing officers of the merits of plans to push job applications from white males to the bottom of the pile.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has called for a change in the law so that “priority could be given to minority ethnic and female applicants”.
Liz Owsley, national co-ordinator for the British Association for Woman in Policing, said she hoped the government would take steps as soon as the autumn.
She said the official response to the Trevor Phillips-chaired Equalities Review later this year should welcome ‘affirmative action’ – but conceded that many officers were against it.
“I hope the government is open to some sort of discussion along these lines,” she told Personnel Today. “It would be a blow if it was not.
“Acpo is hoping to educate people within the force, because there is a defensiveness there which comes from not understanding what [affirmative action] is all about,” she said.
The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, slammed the proposal, saying it went beyond positive action.
Chairwoman Jan Berry said: “These new proposals could be counter-productive. All officers, including black and female officers, want to be recognised for their skills and abilities rather than receiving preferential treatment.”
The Police Service is under pressure to meet a Home Office target of 7% of officers coming from non-white backgrounds by 2009.