Police forces should positively discriminate to recruit more black and ethnic minority officers, a chief constable has said.
Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, said there was a growing diversity problem within the police service and that he was "embarrassed" at the lack of progress to address it.
The lead spokesman on workforce development for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) believes it should be a legal requirement to create a more diverse service, including more black and ethnic minority officers in high-ranking positions.
He said his views were not about "targets or political correctness" but about a "great" operational need.
"Policing is unique, we need to be legitimate within the community because of the exercise of power," he said.
"Often we are out there resolving disputes between communities and we need officers that understand different communities and different backgrounds.
"Then there is the practical stuff about surveillance and undercover officers, we need to be a more diverse police service."
There are 48 black or ethnic minority superintendents and chief superintendents in England and Wales, and six chief officers - representing 3% of all chiefs, the Guardian reported.
Mr Fahey added that budget cuts and the removal of senior posts from the service will worsen the diversity problem and reduce the opportunity for promotion to senior roles.
He would like to see black and ethnic minority officers follow the progress of women within the service.
Police Minister Damian Green said he was "struck" at how much needs to be done to improve the representation of black and minority ethnic populations, especially at senior levels, The Guardian reported.
But he added that it was not an issue for the government to address.
"My firm belief is that the police must take ownership for these issues," he said.