17032015Tue

Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Indian-origin Met officer laments lack of minority recruits

One of Britain's highest ranked ethnic minority police officers has said that more needs to be done to recruit black and Asian recruits to the service.

Chief Superintendent Dal Babu, who is due to retire from the Metropolitan Police Service on Monday after three decades, told the BBC that many senior colleagues just "don't get it" and "radical measures" were needed so police had a better understanding of different cultures.

The Met countered that it had made "good progress" with ethnic recruitment in recent years.

Greater Manchester Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said the obstacle to greater ethnic minority recruitment was the legal framework - not senior officers.

In spite of targets to boost the number of ethnic minority police officers in England and Wales they remain under-represented at 5% of the workforce.

In the majority of the 43 forces, there are no black or Asian officers at senior levels.

Home Office figures show there were only six such officers at the ranks of Assistant, Deputy and Chief Constable in March 2012.

There are also comparatively few black and minority ethnic officers in specialist units, such as CID and firearms.

Ch Supt Babu, 49, said there was a "business case" as well as "moral" reasons for raising numbers, particularly in specialist units.

He told the BBC's Danny Shaw: "It's about having that cultural understanding when you're planning the firearms operation - do you understand the cultural aspects that might be misinterpreted as being aggression within a particular community?

"Do you understand when communities are praying on a particular day?" adding that having more officers from different backgrounds would also help cut translation costs.

"But ultimately it's the right thing to do," he said.

"We need to make sure that people who join feel confident that they can join different parts of the organisation."

In 1999, after the Macpherson report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the Labour government set police forces targets to boost ethnic minority officer numbers and although some achieved it many have found it difficult.

Ch Supt Babu, who has spent the past three-and-a-half years as commander of the London borough of Harrow, said many chief constables had been resistant to change.

"There's a significant number of people who just don't get it and I think what we need to be doing is making sure that people really understand the importance of diversity in the police service," he said.

"You judge people by what they've delivered. And I'd say, have a look at how many of these chief constables have got senior black and ethnic minority officers. How many of them have got officers in their specialist departments? That would be the ultimate test."

Ch Supt Babu agreed that a fresh approach was needed but said it could be done without new legislation.

"I think we need to be radical. I think we need to be different. Largely what we've ended up doing in the 30 years I've been in the organisation is doing the same old thing.

"It's an advert in the Voice or Asian Times, we do a bit of race awareness training - and that just hasn't delivered results."

He suggested that applicants to the police should be required to have certain languages, spoken in minority communities, or to have done voluntary work, rates of which are thought to be high in ethnic minority groups.

"If we'd looked at those factors we'd be attracting individuals from minority communities," he said.

The Metropolitan Police, which covers the more diverse Greater London area, currently boasts 17% of its officers from black and ethnic minority backgrounds.

But the Met said its Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, had asked for "new proposals" to increase representation in the force as a whole and at senior levels, as it embarked on a drive to recruit thousands more police later this year.

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