Avon and Somerset police chief admits to recruitment blunder

The chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police has admitted that a recruitment scheme which relied on positive discrimination to increase the proportion of women and ethnic minorities in the force was “not appropriate”.

The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) began an investigation into recruitment at the constabulary following reports that candidates are being turned down for being white.

The force rejected 186 white applicants because, it said, its workforce was “over-represented by white men”. Under the Race Relations Act, shortlisting or appointing on racial grounds is unlawful.

In its summer recruitment drive last year, 46% of successful applicants were white men, 49% white women and only 4% black and minority ethnic men and 1% black and minority ethnic women. Only 51 officers out of 3,314 currently working at the force are from ethnic minority backgrounds.

At the time Avon and Somerset chief constable, Colin Port, defended the policy, known as ‘positive action’.

“By randomly deselecting from a group where we were vastly over-represented, we will make a difference. The group on this occasion happened to be white men,” he said in December last year.

However, after taking independent advice, Port said he realised the policy was “not appropriate” and that all applicants who had been excluded have been given the option to reapply.

“We will continue to think and find ways of trying to recruit more men and women from groups that are under-represented,” he said. “We will have to be innovative in our thinking, but it may also include us being, again, pioneering in our approach.”

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