BLACK people in Thames Valley are significantly underrepresented in their police force, new figures reveal.

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 the career.

Home Office data shows there were just 20 black officers in Thames Valley Police at the end of March – a rate of 4.8 per 1,000 officers whose ethnicity was recorded.

But a recent analysis by the Government Statistical Service shows that 29 per 1,000 people in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire are black – more than six times the rate in the workforce.

Rates were calculated using police force area population estimates from mid-2016 to the latest year with an ethnicity breakdown.

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Thames Valley Police says it ‘recognises the need to better reflect the communities it serves’ and says it is ‘doing all it can’ to remove ‘any barriers’.

Across England and Wales 12.6 per 1,000 officers were black while the figure for the population stood at 33.7.

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

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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 increase'.

In Thames Valley, there were 216 officers from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in March, up from 214 a year earlier.

This still underrepresented the community – the figure accounts for 50.8 per 1,000 officers while BAME people make up 157.0 in 1,000 of the population – but the disparity is greater for black people specifically.

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.

A Thames Valley Police spokesperson said: “Thames Valley Police recognises the need to better reflect the communities we serve.

“We are committed to recruiting officers and staff from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups (BAME) as it is essential in maintaining public trust with all of our communities. “We are aware that barriers may exist to those from ethnic minorities from joining the police service, which is also reflected nationally. “We want to do all we can to remove these barriers.”

“Our Positive Action & Engagement Team have been working to engage and recruit candidates from Black, Asian and other Ethnic Minorities to join Thames Valley Police.

“Their work has been successful, in the last round of police officer recruitment, 24per cent of the total applicants came from a BAME background."

“This is just a small step and as a Force we will continue to engage with people from a diverse range of backgrounds to recruit them, so we are equipped to better understand the issues facing our communities and work to solve them.”