Ted Jeory, Express (London), September 15, 2013
Bosses believe people who do not have English as their first language are being discriminated against under current assessment rules.
They have recommended the weighting placed on the “Written Communication” section of the Metropolitan Police’s tough entrance exam is lowered.
However, they fear a “white backlash” among rank and file officers who feel they have already been passed over for promotion.
Home Affairs Committee chairman, MP Keith Vaz, said last night any move to drop standards would be “insulting” to ethnic minority candidates themselves, and would risk losing public cofidence.
The details are contained in an internal Met report marked “restricted” but which has been obtained by the Sunday Express under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Diversity Health Check document highlights a growing concern about race relations at the Yard, 11 years after the publication of the Macpherson Report into allegations of “institutionalised racism” surrounding the death of Stephen Lawrence in 1998.
The diversity report paints a picture of an agonised management acutely aware their workforce is not representative of the wider London community but at the same time concerned not to damage the moral of existing staff.
However, Met managers are determined to press ahead on filling the diversity gap.
The report, written by the Diversity and Citizen Focus Directorate in June last year — and still being discussed with Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe — recommends the Yard lobby for a law change that would allow “positive discrimination” in recruitment.
At the end of April last year, just 16 per cent of the Met’s 53,000 strong workforce was from an ethnic minority background, whereas non-whites comprise 41 per cent of the capital’s population.
To bridge the gap, the Met, instead of direct external entry, is now recruiting an increasing number of constables from the ranks of Police Community Support Officers where the pool of non-whites is far greater.
However, all constables must still pass the Met’s entrance test, known as Search (Structured Entrance Assessment for Recruiting Constables Holistically) — and this has been identified as part of the problem.
A statistical analysis of past exam results concluded that white candidates were more than twice as likely to pass.
This was “statistically significant” and not “random error”, the report’s authors stated.
They added: “The analysis also revealed that factors including increased levels of academic attainment, English as a first language and experience within the PCSO or Special
Constable roles, impacted significantly upon Search outcomes, substantially improving the odds of success.
“However, the Written Communication competency area is an area of particular concern due to the weighting it is given in terms of the overall outcome of Search, considering it contributes a very small amount to the overall percentage.
“The data showed that substantial numbers of candidates achieved the overall pass threshold level – in the current case 55 per cent – often performing superbly in the majority of competency areas, but failed Search on the basis of the Written Communication competency.
“The competency appeared to have a disproportionately adverse impact upon Black and Minority Ethnic candidates, with candidates from this group nearly two times more likely to fail Search on the basis of Written Communication than white candidates.
“Paradoxically, Search was designed to measure potential to perform the role yet allows a single factor, which is very much a product of education and socialisation…to significantly influence the outcome of selection.”
It recommends Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey reconsider a previous proposal to raise the Search pass mark from 55 per cent to 70 per cent because “it would adversely affect black and minority ethnic recruitment”.
However, Labour MP Keith Vaz said: “We need more ethnic minority recruits to the police service.
“But it would be insulting to the black and minority ethnic applicant if standards were reduced, and to the public who would not respect the process. “There is a huge pool of talent within the ethnic minorities we need to ensure it is properly and fairly tapped.”
A spokeswoman for the Met said the force was making “excellent progress” on the recruitment issues but added: “We continue to review recruitment processes to ensure we recruit a workforce representative of London.
“We are not complacent and will continue to enhance our recruitment processes within the boundaries set by equality legislation to build upon this success.”