CRE lets police off hook over positive discrimination

The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) has taken no action against Avon and Somerset Police, despite concluding that the force was guilty of unlawful discrimination in its recruitment.

Last November, the Avon and Somerset force rejected 186 white applicants because its workforce was “over-represented by white men”.

At the time, only 51 officers out of 3,314 were from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The CRE’s investigation concluded that the force had used positive discrimination, in breach of the Race Relations Act.

But it has now emerged that the commission and the police have come to an agreement that no more will be done because the force has “acknowledged” the findings of the investigation.

In e-mail correspondence with civil liberties group Liberty and Law, Esther Maynard, legal adviser for the CRE, said: “The matter was resolved by way of a signed form of assurance from Avon and Somerset constabulary, acknowledging that the commission was of the view that the disputed selection process was unlawful.

“The commission will, therefore, not be pursuing the matter.”

Gerald Hartup, director of Liberty and Law, said the decision brought the law into “total disrepute”.

But a CRE spokesman said: “The CRE takes a responsible and effective approach to enforcement of the Race Relations Act by attempting to resolve issues before taking costly legal action. The enforcement process is incremental and subsequent breaches of the Act by public bodies can result in legal proceedings.”

Trevor Phillips, CRE chairman, has become increasingly frustrated by the inability of the police force to use positive discrimination to drive diversity.

He has called for a debate on the issue, echoing calls made by Metropolitan Police HR director Martin Tiplady (Personnel Today, 7 February).

Phillips said that police forces had not been able to boost levels of diversity quickly enough for fear it might look unfair, causing difficulties when dealing with ethnic community groups. “I think this is a matter of national security,” he said.


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