The home secretary is at the centre of the worst race row to engulf the police service for almost a decade as chief constables stand accused of blocking an inquiry into discrimination against Muslim officers. Jacqui Smith will be asked to intervene tomorrow after the damning revelation that at least 20 police forces refused to co-operate with the first audit into the treatment of Muslim and black officers. Information from those forces that did take part suggested there was routine racial discrimination against them.
Accusations that police forces refused to co-operate with the audit, which was conducted jointly by the National Association of Muslim Police and the think-tank Demos, is bound to cause consternation in government. Initially, only 11 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales replied to the questionnaire on the promotional prospects, rank and number of Muslim and black officers employed. As a result of this ‘poor rate of return’, the deadline was extended by another month. Even then barely half – only 23 – co-operated. The association condemned a seeming ‘widespread squeamishness’ on issues of race among a number of forces.
A letter sent to Smith and all chief constables in England and Wales by the association asks: ‘Why were some forces unable or unwilling to co-operate, while others completed in full and on time? Why did some forces refuse to complete on grounds of the pretext of the Data Protection Act, while others said they did not have the time to take part?’
Senior Muslim officers warned forces last night that they would lodge Freedom of Information requests if they continued to refuse to take part.
The letter says: ‘If the police are serious about ensuring that Muslim officers are able to rise through the ranks at the same speed as their fellow white officers, and ensuring that Muslims are deployed to counter-terrorism duties at a time of heightened national security, we must have reliable data to track progress and measure success.’ It adds that the ‘paucity’ of information ‘means that each individual case of discrimination, or alleged discrimination, can only be assumed to be symptomatic of the conditions facing Muslim officers across the UK’.