PEOPLE from black, Asian and minority ethnic(BAME) backgrounds in Dorset are underrepresented in their police force, new figures reveal.

The National Black Police Association says police forces have been too slow in addressing a lack of diversity in their ranks and has called for more action to attract people from minority backgrounds.

Home Office data shows there were 21 BAME officers in Dorset Police at the end of March – up from 20 the previous year and accounting for 18.2 per 1,000 officers whose ethnicity was recorded.

But a recent analysis by the Government Statistical Service shows that 31.4 per 1,000 of the local population is BAME.

Rates were calculated using police force area population estimates from mid-2016 – the latest year with an ethnicity breakdown.

Across all 43 police forces, BAME officers accounted for 73.0 in 1,000 officers who stated their ethnicity, an increase from 69.4 the previous year and 46.2 in 2010.

But the Home Office said this still “considerably under represents” those communities – BAME people make up 145.2 per 1,000 of England and Wales’s population, according to mid-2016 estimates.

Andy George, president of the National Black Police Association, said the Government's manifesto pledge to recruit 20,000 extra officers by 2023 offered a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to make police forces reflective of the communities they serve.

He added: “The National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Government need to be bolder in their approach to this and advocate for a short period of positive discrimination during the uplift.”

The death of American George Floyd while in police custody on May 25 sparked protests across the world, including in many UK towns and cities.

It has reignited debates over racism, and the relationship between the police and black communities.

A report released earlier this year by the Police Foundation think tank said increasing levels of diversity in police forces since 2007 had mainly been driven by the recruitment of Asian and mixed ethnicity officers, while black representation had “barely increased”.

In Dorset, there were two black officers in March – accounting for 1.7 per 1,000 officers.

This still under represents the community – black people make up 2.6 per 1,000 of the population – but it makes Dorset one of a minority of areas where the disparity is greater for BAME people as a whole.

Across all police forces in England and Wales, 12.6 per 1,000 officers were black, while the figure for the population stood at 33.7.

Ian Hopkins, the NPCC's lead for diversity, equality and inclusion, said: "The slower rate of progress in recruiting black police officers is likely to reflect the fact that confidence in police has historically been lower among black people than white or Asian."

But he added that the drive to recruit 20,000 new officers was a "generational opportunity" to address this.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The Government wants to see people from all backgrounds joining the police, with police forces that are representative of the community they serve.

“That’s why the Home Secretary has today written to police chiefs to urge them to grasp the opportunity the recruitment of 20,000 additional officers presents when it comes to diversifying the police.

“The Home Secretary has also discussed this issue with police leaders via the National Policing Board and is clear that she wants officers from all backgrounds to be able to progress up the ranks.”

A spokesman for Dorset Police said: "Having a workforce that reflects the diverse nature of the communities we serve is of paramount importance to us. In order to achieve this we have invested in our Positive Action strategy with the aim to improve the workforce representation of Dorset Police, using positive action measures and continuing to build an inclusive culture where diversity and difference is celebrated.

"We are seeing progress across the wider inclusion agenda, with a specific focus on areas such as neurodiversity. We are undertaking a range of process improvements which will benefit our force as a whole.

"Some of these are already in place, such as lowering the age of eligibility for police officer recruitment to 17 (but they must be 18 to start the role), the removal of driving licence requirements for Special Constables, and the overall greater use of technology enabling us to engage across the whole community.

"We also ensure we go out into the community to talk to people who would not necessarily have considered the police as a natural career choice to inform them of the variety of roles available across our Force.

"Early indicators from these are showing an increasing interest from our BAME communities and we are working closely with these individuals to provide bespoke support."