The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) is to investigate police recruitment at Avon and Somerset constabulary following reports that candidates are being turned down for being white.
The force is reported to have rejected 186 white applicants because its workforce is “over-represented by white men”. Under the Race Relations Act, shortlisting or appointing on racial grounds is unlawful.
In its summer recruitment drive this 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.
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.
The CRE said it “would be dealing with it in the normal way”. This means it first issues a letter to the force, asking for an explanation of the policy.
The commission then proceeds with further interviews, requests for documentation and other information if it decides there is a case to answer.
“We would be keen to see the detail of Avon and Somerset police’s recruitment policy,” a CRE spokesperson said.
The commission has the power to demand that an organisation changes discriminatory practices, and can monitor progress and take legal action if necessary.
Gerald Hartup, director of civil liberties group Liberty and Law, said: “Port calls this trying ‘something different’. The CRE should see it as ‘trying it on’ and stamp out the abuse,” he said.
But Hartup also claimed he was sympathetic to police forces, which he said had been “set up to fail by impossible government targets” when recruiting more ethnic minority officers.
‘Mrs motivator’ trains police to think positive
West Mercia Constabulary has spent 200,000 on a US guru to train staff to think more positively. Mary Gober – who has been given the nickname Mrs Motivator – will encourage about 230 switchboard operators, who deal with 999 calls and general enquiries, to ‘think outside the box’ and banish negative words such as ‘can’t’. The training aims to improve customer service and make staff more confident and assertive. Gober’s previous clients have included Marks & Spencer and hotel chain Novotel.