Black people in Essex are significantly underrepresented in their police force, new figures reveal.

Bosses at Essex Police say the force “won’t rest” until BAME communities are represented.

Home Office data shows there were just five black officers in Essex Police at the end of March – a rate of 1.5 per 1,000 officers whose ethnicity was recorded.

Two more black officers have joined the force since the survey.

But a recent analysis by the Government Statistical Service shows that 24.9 per 1,000 people in the local area are black – more than 16 times the rate in the police workforce.

In the last two years, the number of people who have joined Essex Police who are black, Asian or from a minority ethnic background (BAME) has increased from 66 to 109.

A spokesperson for Essex Police said: “The number of people applying for jobs with the force who are black is increasing, and the number of black officers currently stands at seven, with many more new applications currently being processed. In addition, there are a further 35 people who are black, Asian or from a minority ethnic background serving in the Special Constabulary, of whom five are black.

“We won’t rest until the force fully reflects the communities we are here to protect and serve. We are open to all, and if you are interested in a career in policing please get in touch.”

The National Black Police Association says disproportionate use of police powers on black people in England and Wales means fewer members of the community are attracted to policing as a career.

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.

Andy George, president of the National Black Police Association, said police forces have been too slow and inconsistent in addressing a lack of diversity in their ranks.

He said: “Black communities are facing the most disproportionate use of police powers, particularly stop and search and use of force.

“This will inevitably lead to fewer members of the community seeing policing as a viable career.”

Mr George said the Government’s 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”.

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 underrepresents” those communities – BAME people make up 145.2 per 1,000 of England and Wales's population, according to mid-2016 estimates.

Mr George said grouping entire communities together under the umbrella term BAME leads to police forces not understanding the unique needs of individual communities and their trust in the police.

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.

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