Promote more black police just for being black, says top officer

By LUKE SALKELD

Last updated at 10:30 25 October 2007


A top black police officer has called for more ethnic minority members of the force to be promoted to senior roles - even if they are not qualified.

Keith Jarrett, president of the National Black Police Association, said constabularies should deliberately appoint non-white officers to better reflect the UK population.

Acknowledging that such a move would be unpopular, he went on to insist that ethnic communities want senior police officers who "look like them".

But Britain's most senior officer dismissed the idea as "yesterday's solution".

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair argued that affirmative action was "fraught with difficulties" and the answer lay in a policy of wider recruitment.

He said this enabled the best candidates to be employed, regardless of the colour of their skin.

But Mr Jarrett, president of the NBPA, however said police forces were not reflecting the communities they served and change was happening far too slowly.

"How many years will it take, if we continue with the status quo, to achieve parity?" he asked.

Earlier this week Mr Jarrett made a controversial call for greater use of stop-and-search powers, saying the strategy was necessary to combat inner-city gun and knife crime.

Critics argued that it would inevitably lead to more youngsters from ethnic minorities being stopped in the street - and would therefore increase racial tension.

His remarks on "affirmative action" within the police force itself have already been seen as equally divisive.

Speaking at the NBPA annual meeting yesterday, Mr Jarrett said he knew of two forces which had promoted white officers without the appropriate qualifications above the rank of Chief Inspector.

"The reason for this [happening] is that they are the right persons for the job," he said.

"Affirmative action in the eyes of the NBPA is having the right person for the job.

"If you need black police officers then what is the point of putting someone else there who wouldn't understand?"

He added: "We cannot police with consent by having one race of people dealing with the public.

"I know of at least two police forces where officers have been promoted without doing the Senior Command course because they were the right persons for the job.

"If a black officer is right for the job they should be fast-tracked."

He continued: "Lots of people will say that is giving jobs to people because they are black, because they are women, because they are gay.

"But the status quo is not getting us the results we need. It takes bravery to do something that is unpopular."

He said it was crucial for the police service to be proportional to the community it serves.

He added: "People are saying 'I want to see someone who looks like me, who is not the cleaner, who is not sweeping the street or making the tea and coffee'."

"The Met and West Midlands and all these big conurbations could do with someone who looks like the communities - and that's not happening."

His words were greeted with rapturous applause at the event in Bristol, although the Minister for Policing Tony McNulty, argued that "positive action" was a "blunt tool".

He told the 300 delegates: "I'm not wild about positive action.

"It is not right there is only one black chief constable in the country, but I'm not convinced the blunt tool of positive action is the way to go.

"I want people to advance on merit through a fair system rather than have some saying that people are there for reasons other than merit."

A spokesman for the Campaign Against Political Correctness added last night: "This is absolute nonsense.

"It is outrageous that someone who is sworn to uphold the law fairly and equally should be engaging in an act of political correctness.

"Police officers, whatever their rank, should be chosen on merit, and not by arbitrary targets which favour one section of the population.

"Such targets are nothing short of racism and should have no place in policing."

Mr Jarrett also stood by his controversial comments about stop and search - saying people were "fed up" with the scourge of gun crime.

He said: "Young people - black and white - are taking each other's lives. People ask what we are going to do about it, as they are fed up to the back teeth of these deaths in our society."

Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police commissioner told the conference the problem of gun crime and gangs was "racially-based" and that stop-and-searches should reflect that.

He said: "When 22 youths have been murdered in London since January 1 - and 20 are black - and the majority of them have been stabbed to death, that's an issue the black community want something to be done about.

"There are 250 gangs in London and they are racially-based. A great proportion of them are from the African-Caribbean community."

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