County police chiefs are committed to employing more Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) police officers.

It comes after figures released by the Home Office show that BME officers only make up around 1.6 per cent of the total number of full time officers on the force - 16 men and four women.

The Home Office data also revealed that the force only employed one senior black or ethnic minority officer, a chief inspector, as of March this year.

Currently, BME people make up 4 per cent of Dorset’s total population, which is slightly more than the proportion of BME officers.

The Lammy Review, an investigation by MP David Lammy into the treatment of BME people in the criminal justice system, found that black and ethnic minority people often do not like engaging with the police as they do not feel represented.

The review says that increasing the visibility of BME people within policing is fundamental to ensuring justice

Ian Saunders, chairman of the Police Federation’s equality sub-committee said: “It is vital that the police service reflects the communities we serve to ensure we are able to police as effectively as possible.

“The Police Federation supports efforts to increase diversity, raise awareness and promote best practice about the issue.”

“And we recognise that although there may be barriers to recruiting officers from BME backgrounds, more must be done to attract but also retain these officers and to positively support their career development to ensure that we are a service that is truly reflective of our communities.”

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, added: “Home Office figures show that the force is getting more representative, more BME officers are working for Dorset Police and that can only be a good thing. It’s important that the force reflects the communities it serves. I fully support the work of the Positive Action team in all they are doing to increase both diversity and equality across the force and I would encourage anyone from an under-represented group to find out more from the ‘Positive Action’ and how it could help them get the job they want.”

Across England and Wales, police forces have a disproportionate number of white officers.

More diverse parts of the country have fewer BME officers compared with the size of the black and ethnic minority population.

The Home Office data shows that out of Dorset Police’s full time BME officers, 14 are mixed race.

There are two black officers and three are Asian. The rest are from other ethnic minorities.

The figures show that the force is getting more representative with 11 per cent more BME officers employed this year, compared with March 2017.

A Dorset Police spokesman, said: “Dorset Police has a strong commitment to equality and diversity both within the organisation and in the service it provides. It aims to employ a representative workforce that reflects the communities the Force serve. We use a range of ‘Positive Action’ measures and initiatives that employers can lawfully take to actively encourage individuals from under-represented groups to apply.”