Home secretary pulled into police race row

Ms Smith may find herself embroiled in the controversy
Ms Smith may find herself embroiled in the controversy

The row over racism in the police force became notably more political today when the president of the National Association of Muslim Police (NAMP), Zaheer Ahmad, wrote to home secretary Jacqui Smith asking her to order a 'critical review' of racism on the police.

An audit of police treatment of Muslim and black officers was conducted by the NAMP and Demos, a thinktank, questioning all 43 of England and Wales' police forces on the status, promotions, rank and number of black and Muslim officers. But 20 of the forces have not responded.

In a letter to Ms Smith, Mr Ahmad writes: "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?

"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."

The findings of the audit have already caused waves of consternation across the police force. It revealed, for instance, that Muslim officers were almost "entirely absent" from specialist operations, including counter-terrorism.

The letter could not have come at a worse time. Sir Ian Blair, police commissioner and the most senior figure in the country's police force, is currently struggling with a race row involving Britain's most senior Muslim officer, assistant commissioner Tarique Ghaffur. Mr Ghaffur claims he was passed up for promotion because of his race.


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