Police Scotland ‘must strive to be more diverse’

PC Harry O'Donnell and PC Laura Ferguson chat to Romanian children at the Community Canteen at Trinity Church in Govanhill. Photograph: John Devlin
PC Harry O'Donnell and PC Laura Ferguson chat to Romanian children at the Community Canteen at Trinity Church in Govanhill. Photograph: John Devlin
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Police Scotland has been urged to boost recruitment from more diverse backgrounds after figures revealed that just 1 per cent of its serving officers identify as black or minority ethnic (BME).

The force said it recognised the need to better represent the communities it served and was working to attract applicants who may not have previously considered the police as a career choice.

Data obtained by Scotland on Sunday via a Freedom of Information request reveals that of the more than 17,000 officers serving on the national constabulary as of 31 March this year, just 245 identified as BME.

That figure is up from 197 officers in 2013, the year Police Scotland was established as a result of a merger between regional constabularies.

But the overall percentage of BME officers has remained static at just 1 per cent for each year of Police Scotland’s existence, despite the launch in 2016 of a programme aimed at boosting numbers.

Around 4 per cent of the Scottish population is from a minority ethnic group, although the figure is markedly higher in Scotland’s cities, rising to 12 per cent in Glasgow.

Liam McArthur, MSP, justice spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: “It seems only logical that a police force should look like the communities that it serves.

“Police Scotland should be working hard to boost BME representation across the force and ensuring that no matter your background a career in the police is seen as an attractive option.”

The Lib Dems raised the issue in 2015, when they described the lack of BME officers as a “travesty”.

Police Scotland launched a “positive action team” in 2016 to boost recruitment among ethnic minorities. As of this year, 79 per cent of officers describe themselves as “white Scottish” while another 9 per cent identify as “other white British”.

A further 8 per cent of officers chose not to disclose their ethnic origin. The force records such data using categories established by the last Scottish census in 2011.

Inspector Sean Mangan, of Police Scotland’s positive action team, said: “Scotland has a proud history of being a diverse country and we must ensure we have a police service that reflects and represents those communities.

“We recognise the need to increase the numbers of under-represented officers from all backgrounds within Police Scotland and introduced a Positive Action Team in 2016.

“This is staffed by dedicated officers up to the rank of Superintendent, to increase the number of candidates applying from BME backgrounds.

“During the first year of this programme 10 of the recruits who joined identified as BME. This jumped to 68 the following year, an 8.5 per cent increase.

“We are encouraged by these numbers and believe we have positive strategies in place to increase this further in the future.”