British police urged to follow Northern Ireland's lead

Recruiters for the police service in Britain are letting down the UK's goal of adding more women and ethnic minorities to its forces, according to senior law enforcement officials.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), an independent body, said that the UK would not meet government targets of 35 per cent female and seven per cent ethnic minority officers for another 20 years unless British forces made more effort.

Although British law allows for 'positive action', such as recruitment campaigns targeted at minorities, 'positive discrimination' is still not permitted, which is not the case in Northern Ireland.

Acpo said that the law in Northern Ireland meant that the creation of a diverse police force was possible, which helped reassure minority communities and represented them fairly.

"The Police Service is almost unique in that most police officers serve for 30 years with the same employer. This means it takes a long time for the overall percentage of women and ethnic minorities to rise," Acpo said. "If there is no change in the law, politicians, media and the public will have to accept that the goal of a representative work force will take many more years than they might wish."

Solicitors will be watching the Acpo's campaign with interest to see whether a change in British law is forthcoming, as the Home Office has so far said it does not support the association's proposals.

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