BLACK people in West Yorkshire are significantly under-represented in their region's police force, according to new Home Office figures.

The data, correct as of 31 March, showed there were just 23 officers working for West Yorkshire Police - 18 of them male and five of them female - who identified as 'black or black British'.

This is a rate of 4.3 per 1,000 officers whose ethnicity was recorded, even though 18.8 per 1,000 people in West Yorkshire are black - more than four times the rate than in the police workforce - according to figures from the Government Statistical Service.

Across all police forces in England and Wales, 12.6 per 1,000 officers were black, while the figure for the general population was 33.7.

The National Black Police Association - which aims to improve the experiences of Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) officers in police forces across the UK - says disproportionate use of police powers on black people means fewer members of the community are attracted to policing as a career.

Feelings of distrust between black communities and the police are an issue, with black people 9.7 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched, and 40 times more likely under the controversial section 60 power, which allows stop and search without reasonable grounds.

It was also reported that BAME people in England were 54 per cent more likely to be fined under coronavirus rules than white people, while the death of George Floyd re-ignited debates on institutional racism within the police, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Andy George, President of the National Black Police Association, said: “Black communities are facing the most disproportionate use of police powers - this will inevitably lead to fewer members of the community seeing policing as a viable career.”

Mr George also said the Government’s pledge to recruit 20,000 more officers by 2023 offered a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to make forces reflective of the communities they serve.

The Police Foundation said more diversity in police forces since 2007 had mainly been driven by recruitment of Asian and mixed ethnicity officers, while black representation had “barely increased”.

In West Yorkshire, there were 328 officers from BAME backgrounds in March, which still under-represents the 'BAME community' - equating to 61.6 per 1,000 officers, while BAME people make up 167 in 1,000 of the population - but the disparity is greater for black people specifically.

Mr George said grouping communities together under the umbrella term 'BAME' leads to police not understanding the unique needs of different communities, and encouraged The National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Government to be "bolder" in their approach to the issue.

West Yorkshire Police’s People Director, Kate Sims, said: “We are working extremely hard to ensure that we are representative of the communities we serve, and we know there is more that can be done.

“This extends to all under-represented groups in West Yorkshire and we remain keen to meet the diverse and emerging needs of its people.

“As well as partnering with colleges and universities on recruitment events and programmes for students, we also have officers and staff who are working with under-represented groups in West Yorkshire to educate them about the work of the police and make them aware of the opportunities available to join us.

“We are currently recruiting for police officers through the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeships scheme, which is open to anyone over the age of 17, and would encourage anyone interested in finding out more to visit our website.”