Applicant Turned Down by Police Force for Not Being Disabled, Black, Transgender or Gay Finally Gets Officer Job
Henry Martin, Daily Mail, May 31, 2019
A police applicant who was rejected for being a white heterosexual male is now set to join the force after it was found to have discriminated against him.
Matthew Furlong, 25, wanted to follow in the footsteps of his detective inspector father Liam, 52, when he applied for a job with Cheshire Police — where his father still works — in 2017.
Mr Furlong, who has a degree in particle physics from Lancaster University, performed well in tests and in interview but the force was desperate for more recruits from ethnic and sexual minorities so it refused to hire him.
His father was so stunned that Mr Furlong had been overlooked despite his outstanding performance at his job interview that he launched a formal complaint.
Mr Furlong, who said there was a ‘strong possibility’ he would have been working with the force had he lied and claimed to be bisexual, won in a tribunal, said to be the first of its kind.
Now police forces across the country are reviewing their policies regarding so-called ‘positive action’ and diversity.
An employment tribunal found Cheshire Constabulary discriminated against Mr Furlong on the grounds of sexual orientation, race and sex.
Lawyers for Mr Furlong said a settlement had been reached with the force and he would be joining as a student officer in September.
Jennifer Ainscough, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: ‘Positive action is an incredibly important tool to aid diversity in the workforce but this case is a reminder that it must be applied correctly to ensure that employers still recruit candidates based on merit above all else.
‘Matthew was an exceptional candidate who I am sure will be an exceptional police officer and we wish him every success in his future career.’
Cheshire Constabulary Deputy Chief Constable Julie Cooke said: ‘We accept the findings of the tribunal and have looked very carefully at our entire recruitment practice.
‘Action has been taken to change some of our processes and take account of the hearing’s result.
‘It is important for us, and for candidates, that the recruitment process is fair and transparent and that all candidates are treated in a fair and consistent manner.
candidates from diverse communities, and at no time were the standards of our recruits reduced.’
Mr Furlong’s lawyers said it was the first reported case of its kind in the UK, after the employment tribunal ruled Cheshire Constabulary used ‘positive action’ – where employers take steps to recruit certain groups of people with different characteristics – but in a discriminatory way.
Due to the terms of the settlement agreement, Mr Furlong and his family are not able to comment on the issue, the spokesperson confirmed.
The case could well have a deep impact on police forces across the country – as it may set a precedent of preventing them from using ‘positive action’ methods to recruit people from under-represented groups in future.
In a February ruling a judge criticised the force for treating candidates with ‘protected characteristics’ – such as being gay, transgender, disabled, black or from other ethnic minorities – more favourably than Mr Furlong, who was ‘a white, heterosexual male without disability’.
Following the ruling Mr Furlong’s father said: ‘I’ve tried not to get involved. It is such a political hot potato.
‘The chief constable is big on diversity, which is quite right, but it has to be applied within the letter of the law and they didn’t do that.’
In February Matthew Furlong had said: ‘It has completely shattered my confidence in the police force recruitment system.
‘The irony of the whole thing is that throughout the whole process I was required to demonstrate my honesty and integrity and they have completely undermined that.
‘Had I lied on my interview form and said I was bisexual, for instance, there’s a strong possibility I would be working for Cheshire Police now based on a lie.’
Mr Furlong’s employment tribunal in Liverpool heard that in 2015 chief officers at Cheshire Police launched an ‘action plan’ to recruit more black, Asian and female officers.
This followed a government review which had revealed the force had zero black officers, only five from Asian backgrounds and four of mixed race, with more than 1,400 white officers.
The force began holding recruitment days at pride events, faith centres and Sikh temples, and appointed an LGBT ‘positive action adviser’ to drive recruitment on social media.
The force’s then-acting chief constable Janette McCormick believed ‘passionately about positive action and … a diverse police force,’ the tribunal was told.
Judge Clare Grundy noted: ‘She is clearly a trailblazer who feels strongly that the force requires some significant change.’
Although officer numbers from minority groups had risen by 2017, the plan was said to have only had ‘a small effect’.
Mr Furlong had been among about 675 candidates who applied to join Cheshire Police in September 2017 and was shortlisted a month later.
He was invited for interview, along with 182 others, in November, and although the interview went well, with an inspector on the panel telling Mr Furlong he had been ‘refreshingly well-prepared’, he was rejected six days later.
Mr Furlong had been among 34 white male non-disabled candidates who were unsuccessful.
All the black candidates were offered roles.
In feedback Mr Furlong was told there were not enough vacancies for all the 127 candidates who had passed the interview stage, but Judge Grundy found the force had set the interview pass threshold ‘artificially low’ and candidates were awarded a simple pass or fail – meaning substantial numbers were ‘deemed equal’.
The judge said the force did this so it could appoint officers from minority groups ahead of the best scoring people, concluding that Mr Furlong would have been offered a position had the force not applied ‘positive action’, and so he had been discriminated against.
His lawyer, Jennifer Ainscough, said he was denied his ‘dream job’ simply for being a ‘white, heterosexual male’.
She previously said: ‘Positive action … must be applied lawfully to ensure the highest calibre of candidates are recruited regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.’
Each of the country’s police force’s decides its own hiring and diversity policies, and so strategies vary across the UK.
West Midlands Police’s director of people and organisation development, Ali Layne-Smith, told MailOnline: ‘Our force-wide black and minority ethnic representation is 12% and we continue in our efforts to ensure the force represents the diverse communities we serve.
‘Our Force Values include ”I want to work in a diverse team” and ”I am courageous and fair”. After the Metropolitan Police, we police the most diverse region in England.
‘Each department has now created a diversity and inclusion plan so that we can improve our policing response based on a better understanding of the beautiful, complex, diverse community we serve.
‘We welcome job applications from all diverse communities and backgrounds, regardless of race, sexual orientation, faith, age and gender.’
In a foreword to the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s Diversity, Equality & Inclusion Strategy, Chief Constable Gareth Wilson wrote: ‘Embedding diversity, equality and inclusion into all that we do is an essential ingredient for success and fundamental to this is an effective co-ordination committee that influence our work within the NPCC and through into individual organisations.
‘The Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Co-ordination Committee will own, develop and deliver this strategy on behalf of the NPCC.’
The guidelines state that the NPCC agrees that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to diversity, equality and inclusion and ‘the local response needs to be tailor made to ensure local needs are addressed’.
‘A truly diverse workforce and service provision is one that reflects the nine protected characteristics and goes beyond to value difference,’ they continue.
The nine ‘protected characteristics’ are sex, age, pregnancy and maternity, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, religion and belief, race and disability.