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Wednesday, 21 April, 1999, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
More black officers in The Bill
The government has set recruitment targets for the nation's police forces
TV drama The Bill has recruited more black police officers just a week after the government set new targets to increase ethnic minorities within the nation's forces.

Two new faces are to become a regular sight on the programme's fictitious east London beat of Sun Hill.

But the move is not a response to the government's initiative according to the show's producers.

A spokeswoman for the ITV programme said: "The Bill does try to mirror real police issues and this is reflected in the script. But were are more interested in character development than following government policy."

Clive Wedderburn plays PC Gary McCann.
The two new characters are Jane Wall, who has already been seen in the show as PC Di Worrell, and Karl Collins, who arrives in May. Collins will play the show's first black male detective, DC Danny Glaze.

The two will triple the programme's current ethnic minority representation by joining the already established Clive Wedderburn who plays PC Gary McCann.

Last week Home Secretary Jack Straw said more than 8,300 officers would have to be recruited over the next decade to bring the proportion of officers from ethnic minorities in line with the racial make-up of the population.

The Metropolitan Police, which investigated the death of the black 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence, faces one of the toughest challenges.

Only 3.3% of its officers are black or Asian and it will have to increase this to more than a quarter, in line with London's population.

Producers of The Bill said plans had been under way for 18 months to increase the number of black officers.

Recently the number of ethnic minority police officers in the show dropped after the low-key exits of Seeta Indrani, who played PC Norika Datta, and Lolita Chakrabarti who played PC Jamila Blake.

Speaking to TV Times magazine, executive producer Richard Handford said new storylines would deal in greater detail with issues that affect ethnic minority police officers.

Seeta Indrani, who played WPC Norika Datta, recently left the series
"I'm not criticising my predecessor but, in terms of black officers in the past, the only reason you knew they were black was because they looked it.

"We didn't have storylines that reflected the problems black officers face and we now intend to acknowledge their ethnicity rather than ignoring it. We don't plan to shy away from the issues."

The Bill's writers, editors and producers have sought advice from the Black Police Officers' Association. But they have not worked as closely with the Metropolitan Police force because producers are sensitive to being seen as a mouthpiece for the London police force.

"We are basically a drama series. But if more black people join the police force because they like our characters then that is a bonus," said Handford.

See also:

19 Apr 99 | UK Politics
Police given recruitment targets
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