Page last updated at 08:09 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

Anti-terror police 'need Muslims'

By Dominic Casciani
Home affairs reporter, BBC News

Armed police at Parliament
27 of 2,348 counter-terrorism and special branch officers were Muslim

Urgent action is needed to boost the number of Muslim officers in counter-terrorism units, the National Association of Muslim Police has said.

A survey carried out by the association and think tank Demos suggests Muslims remain under-represented in the police. Half of the 51 UK forces took part.

There are 27 Muslim counter-terrorism officers out of a total of 2,300, and few officers overall in high ranks.

The association said progress on diversity was "painfully slow".

The National Association Muslim Police (Namp) is one of a number of bodies operating among constabularies to represent officers from minority backgrounds.

Having officers with a cultural, religious or linguistic understanding of the individuals most likely to be involved in these groups could be an invaluable head start
Namp report
Formed in 2007, it has support from many police chiefs, partly because of the need to encourage Muslims into the service.

But the association's comments on the rate of progress on diversity come a decade after the Stephen Lawrence report accused the Metropolitan Police of institutional racism.

According to the figures compiled by Namp and Demos, 0.6% of all police officers are Muslim.

In contrast, the 2001 census found that approximately 3% of the UK population was Muslim - a figure that is widely accepted to have since grown.

Specialist roles

The survey found similar results when it looked at progression through the ranks or into specialist areas.

In total, 27 of the 2,348 counter-terrorism and special branch officers identified in the survey were Muslim, equivalent to 1.1% of those captured by the survey.

MUSLIM OFFICERS BY RANK
Chief Superintendent: 0
Superintendent: 2
Chief Inspector: 7
Inspector: 23
Sergeant: 55
Police Constable: 444
Source: Namp (Figures from half of UK forces)

"Muslim officers are primarily concentrated in lower ranks, mainly constable," the report said.

"This is to be expected given that the majority of all officers are employed at this rank too. However, the [figures] do demonstrate… the relative dearth of Muslim officers in the senior ranks.

"The obvious point is the lack of Muslim officers involved in countering terrorism, given the threat is at present time from violent extremist Islamist groups linked to al-Qaeda.

"The terror threat is not limited to al-Qaeda, nor is it only Muslims that are capable of understanding Islamist terrorist activity.

"However, having officers with a cultural, religious or linguistic understanding of the individuals most likely to be involved in these groups could be an invaluable head start. This is a matter of priority."

'Language skills'

Supt Dal Babu, of Namp, told BBC News that its members were keen to make a full contribution to fighting terrorism.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

He said: "What they're saying is while the threat is around al-Qaeda, they have the language skills - they can speak Punjabi, they can speak Urdu, some of the major languages some of the individuals that have been involved in bombing campaigns in this country have spoken.

"They also have that general understanding around Islam. It's about making sure we have those numbers there."

Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall, Steve Otter, the lead on race and diversity for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the research was "very helpful".

"The work that we're doing across the police service is very much about working with our minority officers, not just Muslim officers but across the board, to increase their confidence and help them understand how to move forward into specialist posts," he said.

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