Nottinghamshire Police risked breaking equality laws after letting black and ethnic minority (BME) candidates know about job openings before other candidates. The force sent an email round to 57 BME potential candidates letting them know that 20 posts were up for grabs, with only the first 75 applications accepted.
Although the jobs were also published on the force’s website, they were not advertised publicly, giving the BME candidates an advantage over white candidates.
The Mail on Sunday reports that the force has defended the policy, insisting it was a legitimate way to increase diversity, but critics say it came very close to breaking the law by discrimination against whites. It also means that many hopefuls, including civilian staff and volunteers, missed the chance to become full police officers.
Although so-called ‘positive discrimination’ – where a minority group is given preferential treatment over whites – is illegal in UK law, ‘positive action’ – which includes steps to improve ‘equality’ in the work place – is legal under Labour’s 2010 Equality Act. The line between the two can often be blurred.
Dominic Raab, a Conservative MP and former solicitor, told the Mail on Sunday: “The Equality Act has promoted this kind of positive discrimination by the back door. It’s anti-meritocratic in principle, and socially divisive in practice. We need to nip this kind of nonsense in the bud.”
One Nottinghamshire resident also told the paper: “It brings positive action into total disrepute. Many people would generally support it but when you find jiggery-pokery like this it gives a negative taste. It is not a method to get the best people for the job.”
A spokesman for Nottinghamshire Police said, however, that less than half of those who submitted applications were from the “supported group”.
The force is also unlikely to face legal action, as legal experts agree that, since the jobs were also posted on the force’s website, anyone could still theoretically apply.