Rejected white police applicant wins damages in race discrimination claim

A man who was rejected from a police recruitment campaign because he was white has won damages after a tribunal labelled the process “at the very least disingenuous and at worst misleading”.

Matt Powell, an IT professional, won £2,500 after he found out he was one of 108 applicants told they had been “randomly de-selected” from the recruitment process by Gloucestershire police.

It later emerged that nearly two-thirds of white men who applied to join the constabulary in the recruitment drive were turned down, whereas every ethnic minority candidate was invited for an assessment.

Personnel Today first revealed Powell’s intention to sue for damages in March, when he accused Gloucester police of creating an environment ripe for racial discrimination.

Speaking after the tribunal, Powell said: “I couldn’t get ‘randomly deselected’ out of my head so I made some enquiries.”

“I wrote letters, spoke to them and they were coming back with nothing, absolutely nothing,” he said. “They were refusing to talk to me, so I thought, well if you’re not going to talk to me you’ll talk to somebody, so that’s when I got my MP involved and then my solicitor involved and that’s when they started to talk.”

Gordon Ramsey, head of HR at Gloucestershire police, told an industrial tribunal in Bristol that the force was trying to advance diversity and thought at the time that this was “lawful, positive action”.

“When we found out, after an independent investigation, that it wasn’t lawful we accepted that,” he said. “We apologise for the distress caused to Mr Powell and the other candidates.”

Clive Toomer, chairman of the tribunal, awarded Powell the money for ‘injury to feelings’ saying he was entitled to feel angry and distressed at the way he was treated.

The police face tough government targets which dictate that ethnic minorities should make up 7% of its strength by 2009. In September 2005 only 1.6% of staff and officers were from ethnic minority backgrounds.

In July it emerged that the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) would not take action against Gloucestershire police, despite an investigation finding their ‘positive action’ recruitment was in breach of race regulations.

The CRE also let Avon and Somerset police force off the hook after another investigation found that the force had breached the Race Relations Act when it rejected 186 white applicants because its workforce was “over-represented by white men”.

At the time of its campaign in November 2005 only 51 officers out of 3,314 were from ethnic minority backgrounds at Avon and Somerset.

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