James Slack, Daily Mail (UK), September 22, 2006
A police force has admitted breaking the law with a secret policy of ‘deselecting’ more than 100 potential recruits for no other reason than being white men.
Humiliated Gloucestershire Police said it had been trying to ‘advance diversity’ when it rejected the 108 men in favour of women and ethnic minority candidates.
But Chief Constable Dr Timothy Brain’s force confessed it had acted unlawfully by dashing the men’s dreams because of their sex and skin colour.
It agreed to pay one of the snubbed men, 30-year-old Matt Powell, £2,500 in damages.
The tribunal said the force had been ‘at the very least disingenuous and at worst misleading’. It could spark a barrage of further claims, each of which would be settled from police funds drained from local taxpayers.
Mr Powell, who has wanted to join the police since he was a child, said: ‘I didn’t come here for the money. I just want to be heard.
‘I firmly believe a wrong has been done here. I was, I still am, desperate to be a police officer and they have unfairly discriminated against me.’
Critics seized on the ruling as further evidence of the way ‘political correctness’ has taken charge of the police and other public bodies.
The force was under pressure to meet a Government target of ethnic minority recruits making up seven per cent of force strength by 2009.
At the time, they made-up only 1.6 per cent, forcing senior commanders to take desperate – and illegal – measures.
Last night Tory police spokesman Nick Herbert said: ‘All forces should strive as representative as possible of the community they serve, but positive discrimination is not the way.
‘This approach only costs taxpayers money in the end.’
Police advertised for recruits last year, without admitting they were intending to discriminate against white males.
IT worker Mr Powell, along with the 107 other men was told he had made it through to the second round of the recruitment process.
But, two months later, they received letters stating they had been ‘randomly deselected’. No explanation was given by recruitment officials.
It has since emerged the police had taken the decision to deselect the men as part of an ‘advance diversity’ drive. Every one of the 129 female and ethnic minority candidate who applied was accepted, along with 63 white males who escaped the illegal cull.
Police only came clean following an investigation by the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission, yesterday’s employment tribunal was told.
Gordon Ramsey, head of human resources at Gloucestershire Police, told the hearing: ‘We were trying to advance diversity in the force and we 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. We apologise for the distress caused to Mr Powell and the other candidates.’
Clive Toomer, chairman of the tribunal, said the £2,500 – which will be paid by the tax-payer – was for ‘injury to feelings’.
He said: ‘We accept the respondent Gloucestershire Police was at the very least disingenuous and at worst misleading during the early stages of the application.
‘We accept Matt Powell was entitled to feel angry and distressed at the way he was treated.’ His solicitor Nigel Tillott said: ‘The impact of this is it is now clear how far public authorities can go in positive discrimination.
‘What they cannot do is discriminate against white males when it comes to job applications. Gloucestershire Police have admitted they were wrong.’
Gloucestershire is the second force to fall foul of race relation laws, which allow for ‘positive action’ to boost the number of ethnic minority candidates but not discrimination.
Avon and Somerset were also embroiled in a ‘race row’ claim after it rejected 186 white applicants at the first stage of selection.
In November 2005 the force received 800 applications for just 180 jobs. The force admitted they also deselected the applicants in a bid to increase its ethnic diversity.
Avon and Somerset Police Chief Constable Colin Port admitted he had ‘over-stepped the mark.’
The Police Federation believes other forces are guilty of operating similar policies, but have yet to be found out.
Yesterday’s ruling paves the way for any white male who believes he has been discriminated to go to tribunal, provided they have proof against their force.
The seven per cent target for ethnic minorities was drawn up after a public inquiry found the 1993 murderers of black student Stephen Lawrence had evaded justice, in part because of institutional racism among officers.
At the time of its ‘de-selection’ policy, just 2.8 per cent of Gloucestershire’s population was from an ethnic minority, according to the 2001 census, compared to an average of 8.7 per cent across England and Wales.
Only 21 of its 1,313 officers were from ethnic minorities, or 1.6 per cent.
Gloucestershire police force has admitted illegally rejecting 108 job applicants because they were white men.
The Police Federation said the force has been trying to recruit more female officers and more people from ethnic minorities to meet a government target.
But one of the unsuccessful applicants, Matt Powell took legal action and has been awarded £2,500 by a tribunal.
Mr Powell, 30, said he became suspicious when he was told he had been “randomly deselected”.
The case comes six months after Avon and Somerset Police admitted it had illegally rejected almost 200 applications from white men for the same reason.
‘Unlawful racial discrimination’
The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) and the Equal Opportunities Commission who led the investigation, said the Gloucestershire force had unlawfully discriminated on the grounds of race and sex.
A spokesman said: “Unlawful racial discrimination is unacceptable and as the guardian of the Race Relations Act we will hold organisations to account if we think that they are in breach of the Act.”
Police are under pressure to meet the government target, set in 1999, that by 2009, 7% of police officers in England and Wales should be from ethnic minority groups.
In September 2005, only 1.6% of Gloucestershire Police officers were black or Asian.
Ian Anderson, chairman of Gloucestershire Police Federation blamed unrealistic government targets for their illegal recruitment drive.
“I think to call it a clumsy policy would be diplomatic.
“It clearly wasn’t the way to do it and has caused a great deal of consternation and disquiet in the force and the local community.”
Earlier this year, Gloucestershire’s Assistant Chief Constable Michael Matthews admitted ‘positive action’ had been taken to recruit more women and from ethnic minorities.
“It is essential in a democratic policing environment to ensure that under-represented groups are prioritised in our recruitment drives,” he said.
Mr Powell’s solicitor, Nigel Tillott, said: “The impact of this is that it is now clear how far public authorities can go in positive action.
“What they cannot do is discriminate against white males when it comes to job applications.”