A police force has hit back at claims it has no black police officers.
Home Secretary Theresa May said Durham Constabulary is one of four across the country which do not employ officers from the ethnic minority.
We work closely with the Black and Asian Police Association and have a range of initiatives to actively promote diversity in the workplace.Ron Hogg
But the force says it does have a British black Caribbean officer as well as “at least 19 black and minority ethnic officers” and has challenged the claim from the Home Office, which also pinpointed Cheshire, North Yorkshire and Dyfed-Powys as others without black officers.
The Home Office statistics break down ethnicity into six groups: white, mixed, black or black British, Asian or Asian British, Chinese or other ethnic group and not stated.
Of all the minority officers in the 43 forces, 40% indicated they were Asian or Asian British, 29% were mixed, 19.7% were black or black British and 11.2% were Chinese or other.
Durham was also in the 10 lowest overall number of ethnic minority.
Of the 43 forces in England and Wales, the Metropolitan Police had the largest proportion of ethnic minority officers with West Midlands and Leicestershire.
Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg said: “It is factually incorrect to say we have no black officers, as has been reported.
“And in fact we find it wholly disrespectful to our diverse police family for the Home Secretary to single out one ethnic group.
“As it happens, just this morning we had an officer representing this particular ethnicity, which for some reason has been highlighted, dealing with a road traffic collision in the north of the county.
“The way in which we record ethnicity is via a self-reporting system.
“It is not a mandatory requirement and, despite requests to complete the information, we have no influence on how an individual may wish to identify themselves and neither would we want to mandate it.
“We absolutely agree with the Home Secretary that it is vitally important that we represent the communities we serve.
“We work closely with the Black and Asian Police Association and have a range of initiatives to actively promote diversity in the workplace.
“And we are determined to work even harder to try and address the perceived under-representation of black and minority ethnic officers and staff within the force.”
Detective Constable Waheed Mughal, chairman of Durham Black and Asian Police Association (BAPA), said: “I can confirm that the force do have a British black Caribbean officer who serves in the north of the county as well as at least 19 other Black and minority ethnic officers.
“Both the Chief Constable and Police and Crime Commissioner are fully supportive of the BAPA and are always receptive to ideas from members about how diversity in the workplace can be promoted and what can be done further to ensure that the force is representative of their communities.
“This will always be a challenge for a Force like Durham where the black and minority ethnic population is relatively low in comparison to other forces.”