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Calls for the next Met chief to be from a minority background

SCOTLAND Yard has a “diversity crisis” and should be forced to consider appointing a black or Muslim officer as its next commissioner, an influential MP urged last night.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said trust in the country’s biggest force was being eroded and it was time for “dramatic” solutions.

He said a form of positive ­discrimination was needed to ensure at least one candidate on the next shortlist to run the Yard was from an ethnic minority background.

The country’s highest ranking ethnic minority officer is the Met’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan, meaning a black woman could soon become ­Britain’s top police officer.

The Met’s Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe is under the most intense pressure since he took the job in 2011, causing many to wonder how long he can remain in the post.

Rumours circulating in Westminster yesterday that he had tendered his resignation to Home Secretary Theresa May were denied but he is still fighting fires on a number of fronts.

These include the Plebgate affair, corruption at Scotland Yard and questions over his own role as a former South Yorkshire officer in the aftermath of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

Sir Bernard said last week that the Met needed to create and retain a workforce that reflected London’s diverse population. Police insiders say he has made the task one of his main priorities and knows the Met is “too white”.

The force is running a huge ­“London is You” recruitment drive with a target to hire some 5,000 new officers by 2015, of whom up to 30 per cent should be non-white.

External headhunters should be hired to seek top ethnic minority talent around the country, even from outside police forces

Figures from a confidential Met report in 2012 show only 10 per cent of full-time police officers are from ethnic minorities although minorities make up about 40 per cent of the city’s population.

That same “Diversity Health Check” report also highlighted a possible “white backlash” from officers worried about their own ­promotion prospects.

Mr Vaz said he was wary of the Met dragging its feet. The Labour MP added that during his seven years as chairman of the Home Affairs Committee he had heard several ministers, commissioners and officials assure him the police would become ­more representative at senior levels but “it still doesn’t happen”.

He said external headhunters should be hired to seek top ethnic minority talent around the country, even from outside police forces.

Mr Vaz added: “It is what ­businesses do when they have a recruitment ­problem. We should learn from business.

“People need to be identified and fast-tracked into senior jobs but that does not mean ­dropping standards because I am convinced the talent is there.

“We are very much in a crisis mode when it comes to diversity in policing and we need to do something dramatic. The only way to do it is to progressively recruit people into jobs.

“At the very least I think it would be a good idea that the next time we have a vacancy for commissioner we should make it a rule that there is a black or minority ethnic candidate shortlisted for the job.”

Mr Vaz’s views were echoed ­yesterday by Janet Hills, chairwoman of the Metropolitan Black Police Association. She claimed “institutional racism” still existed at senior levels at Scotland Yard, adding: “The pro­cesses they have around recruitment are not fit for purpose.”