ETHNIC minority police officers in Essex could be promoted because of their race.

Nick Alston, police and crime commissioner for Essex, admitted race may be used as a factor in the future but wants a debate on the subject first.

The question arose after Sir Peter Fahy, who leads workforce development for the Association of Chief Police Officers, claimed there could be an “operational need” to promote based on race and suggested the law would need to be changed to allow it.

He argued police forces should be free to emphasise a candidate’s ethnic background when considering promotion.

He denied the suggestion was racist, in an interview with PoliceOracle, and claimed ethnic minority officers face greater obstacles.

He added the move could help officers “with experience of particular communities to help us police them”.

Mr Alston said: “Forty years ago, our police forces were predominantly led and staffed by white males.

“Now, across the country, we have excellent women officers at all ranks, including two Chief Officers here in Essex.

“Over the coming years, we must work hard to ensure that the best officers from all backgrounds and communities have similar opportunities in a way that is fair and equitable to all.”