West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable John Robins backs positive discrimination to improve diversity in Force
The chief constable of West Yorkshire Police has backed "positive discrimination" to allow the force to be more diverse.
John Robins said favouring ethnic minority candidates during recruitment would help the force "get to where we want to be", but warned he was legally unable to impose such a system.
The number of BAME officers within West Yorkshire Police still lags behind the wider ethnic minority population in the region, despite the force saying it's made big strides on diversity in recent years.
Of all new trainee recruits in 2021, nearly 19 per cent were from an ethnic minority background.
However, just under seven per cent of the entire Force are BAME, compared with more than 18 per cent of the wider West Yorkshire population.
One councillor on West Yorkshire's police and crime panel, which scrutinises the Force, called the current situation "woefully unacceptable."
But speaking at a panel meeting on Friday, Chief Constable Robins said: "We are going in the right direction, but there's a significant historical backlog to overcome.
"I am an advocate of positive discrimination to get to where we want to be. A lot of other senior leaders aren't, but I am.
"But we're not able to do it. I'm up against that legal framework.
"The will and the culture (to improve diversity) is there, in the main. The desire is most definitely there."
Chief Constable Robins said that West Yorkshire Police was frequently approached by other forces for advice on how it recruits candidates from minority backgrounds.
He also said a new programme called 'Positive Action' was being put together to improve things further.
According to a 2018 report cited at the meeting, policing across the UK is unlikely to be ethnically representative for another 30 years, based on projections.
Earlier in the debate however, Bradford councillor Richard Dunbar (Labour) questioned how ambitious the police were in achieving representation.
He said: "While I appreciate some of the good work that's gone on in terms of the last 12 months, I think it's woefully unacceptable where we are at the moment, quite frankly.
"While some of the stuff in the report is really positive in terms of recruitment, a lot of it doesn't seem to be much different from anything I've seen over the last four years while I've been on this panel.
"What I think we're missing is a a more ambitious strategy to recruit from black, Asian and other under-represented minotiries.
"Are we being ambitious enough?"
West Yorkshire's deputy mayor for policing, Alison Lowe, who was previously the chair of the police and crime panel, responded: "I said exactly the same thing when I was sat in your seat.
"That's not to say the force is not working to do better and we're working with the force to hep them do better.
She later added: "We need the public to trust the police.
"If they see police officers who look like them, and mirror their differences, whether that's in terms of LBTQ, religion, race or gender, it makes that mission easier to accomplish.
"Policing has to be by consent.
"When we don't have policing by consent there's riots, there's dissidence and there's no safety in our communities.
"It's right to say we'll never be perfect, but it's an area of constant improvement."
Local Democracy Reporting Service