Some white male recruits to Britain’s largest police force are having to wait up to three years to join, partly because a proportion of ethnic minority and women applicants have been prioritised, it emerged today.
Those facing the wait are among the 10,500 recruits taken on by the Metropolitan Police Service between 2001 and 2003 as part of a huge recruitment drive.
They have been sent to the force’s training centre in Hendon, north London, and other training sites, in staggered intakes.
However, the Met has tried to make each intake as balanced as possible, meaning some women and ethnic minority applicants have been moved up the queue quicker.
Therefore by the time all of the recruits finally join the force over the next 12 months, some of the white male applicants will have been waiting around three years.
The Met’s human resources director Martin Tiplady said: “There is the potential that some white males will have waited up to three years to get in.”
The Met insists the move does not amount to positive discrimination because all of the successful applicants have been offered jobs.
A spokeswoman said: “The Met is always looking to improve the service we provide to the people of London.
“A more diverse group of police officers will be better equipped to deal with the diverse needs of the London community.
“By balancing our intakes of recruits we can better prepare all of them for the job they will be doing.”
However, Des Keenoy, the Metropolitan Police Federation’s constables’ chairman, said: “There is positive action which is legitimate, and positive discrimination which is not. The line between the two is getting very narrow indeed.”
The Met is close to introducing new criteria to prioritise applicants on factors such as whether they speak a second language and on whether they have “knowledge or experience of a community group”.
Being a Londoner and a university graduate are also factors that would work in their favour.
Mr Keenoy added: “The criteria for joining should be the same for all—can you do a very complicated and difficult job as well as the next person?
“We need diversity, we need an eclectic mix of skills and knowledge, but by focusing on certain elements it may be to the detriment of the service overall. It is a debate that needs to be had.”
Government targets stipulate that 25% of Met Officers must be non-white by 2009. The proportion is currently around 7%, although ethnic minorities account for about 17% of all new recruits.
Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said recently that his force had little chance of meeting the target, which was one of the key recommendations from the inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence murder.
He suggested it should be changed to apply to new recruits only, and not to the entirety of the organisation.
Sir Ian has also indicated that he would like to discuss the possibility of changing the law to change the make-up of the force.