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Positive action will continue says new top cop

Exclusive by Lester Holloway

POSITIVE ACTION to boost numbers of Black and Asian police officers will continue, according to London’s new top cop. Sir Ian Blair told Blink he would push ahead with moves to improve diversity in the capital but admitted the target of 25% was “extremely challenging.”

Sir Ian Blair: 'Positive action will continue'
Sir Ian Blair: 'Positive action will continue'

Sir Ian was appointed today as London’s new police commissioner, taking over from Sir John Stevens.

In a charm offensive he stressed the importance of policing by consent and the need for officers to understand London’s diverse communities.

Speaking from his Scotland Yard office before his appointment was announced, 51-year-old Sir Ian admitted stop and search had “caused damage” to police-community relations but said there was no alternative.

But it is the issue of positive action that appears to be causing the greatest tensions within the Metropolitan Police. In April the Met revealed plans to fast-track black would-be recruits to the front of the queue for an interview but insisted there would be no compromise on quality.

 - quote - The difficult area is not a challenge by the Police Federation – it is a challenge from an individual  - unquote -
Sir Ian Blair

While over a quarter of London’s population are Black or Asian, the capital’s police only have 6.5%.

With figures showing a snails-pace increase of just 1% a year on current rates it would take over 20 years before the police reflects the community it serves.

Sir Ian told Blink: “These phrases about positive discrimination are not particularly helpful. What we are saying is that under no circumstances will we lower the standards in order to attract a particular group.

“We see a diverse workforce as a requirement under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act, but we’re having to be reasonably careful around that process. We think the next stage is some form of legislation, even if it’s temporary, which will allow us, without lowering standards, to specifically hold places available.

Sir John Stevens (left) with his successor Sir Ian Blair
Sir John Stevens (left) with his successor Sir Ian Blair

“The difficult area is not a challenge by the Police Federation – it is a challenge by an individual who [feels he or she] is being less favourably treated than another person on grounds of race. There’s quite a tension there.”

There is a one-year waiting list to join the police. Although numbers of Black and Asian applicants have increased this has been cancelled out by large rises in white applicants.

Under plans being considered Black and Asian people would be moved to the front of the queue, but the same quality assessments would remain. Sir Ian said that unless new mechanisms were put in place then the Met would find it “extremely challenging” to meet the target of recruiting 25% of the Met's force from ethnic minorities by 2009.

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