Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), said trust and confidence in policing was 20% lower in the black population compared with the average.
He also highlighted the need to boost the number of black recruits in police forces.
What the senior police chief said
In his first interview on race since the Black Lives Matter protests which spread across the globe last summer, he told the Guardian that he wanted to change "generations of history" between police and black communities.
He told the newspaper: "The reason it is important is because all of that takes you to the legitimacy of us, as a service."
He said trust and confidence in the police was important for people to come forward and report crime and engage with officers, and could also lead to "young black men and women saying I'm prepared to go and become a police officer".
Criticism of British police
British police have been heavily criticised over the years over its disproportionate use of powers, such as stop and search and use of force, on Black and ethnic minority people.
It led to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) warning in a report last month that police risk losing the trust of the communities they serve.
The inspectorate said data from 2019/20 shows ethnic minority people were over four times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, and that black people specifically were nearly nine times more likely.
Plan of action
Following the death of George Floyd in the US and the protests that followed, the NPCC said it would develop a plan of action to address racial inequalities in policing.
It said an independent scrutiny and oversight board will be established with members "who can draw on a range of experiences to challenge and scrutinise us".
Mr Hewitt said the final action plan would await the approval of the chair of the new scrutiny board, who would be recruited from outside policing.
"This is not about political correctness. This is not about 'wokeism' or whatever anyone else wants to call it," he said.
"This is about legitimate policing. Legitimate policing has to be legitimate for all the communities, and that includes the black community."