A MAJOR police officer recruitment campaign by Avon & Somerset Constabulary racially discriminated against Black and Ethnic Minority applicants, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed, writes Adam Postans

Black candidates were twice as likely to be rejected than White people, and Asians more than three times.

Fewer than one in five Black candidates to the force over the last three years – seven out of 38 – became police officers as part of the Government’s major Uplift recruitment programme to bolster frontline crime-fighting by 20,000 officers in England and Wales between 2020 and March this year.

Rejection rates for Asian people who applied is even more alarming, with only 10 out of 91 accepted – about one in nine.

In contrast, of the 2,565 White hopefuls, 947 were taken on, equal to 37 per cent.

Those who gave their race as mixed were actually more successful, with 25 of the 56 becoming police officers, or 45 per cent.

Avon & Somerset Constabulary admitted the data from the FOI, obtained by podcast Media Storm, “appeared to show a level of disproportionality” among Black and Asian candidates and it promised to carry out “in-depth work to understand the figures and identify any steps to take to address this”.

The force said it exceeded its Uplift target of 456 new officers, recruiting 558 frontline police by March 31, and that it had succeeded in creating a more diverse workforce, which better represented the communities it served.

It said serving officers who declared their ethnicity as Black, Asian or mixed heritage had risen by 36 per cent over the last three years.

The findings come three months after Chief Constable Sarah Crew publicly declared Avon & Somerset Police as “institutionally racist”.

Dr Pete Jones, a former police officer and chartered psychologist who was employed by UK constabularies to reduce recruitment bias, said: “This was a once in a generation opportunity for the police service to be representative of the communities that it served and it has squandered it.”

Nationally on average, Black applicants fared the worst with a 60 per cent higher rejection rate than White people, while Black and Ethnic Minority candidates overall were 45 per cent more likely not to be offered a post.

Asians were 51 per cent more likely to be unsuccessful than their White counterparts and those of mixed race 33 per cent more likely.

The statistics were acquired by journalist Mathilda Mallinson for Media Storm after Dr Jones first flagged the issue on the podcast.

Breaking down the data into ‘White’, ‘Asian’, ‘Black’ and ‘Mixed’ ethnic groups, Mallinson and Dr Jones compared the number of applicants with the number of appointments to calculate the respective pass rates for each group, as well as their “adverse impact ratios”.

Adverse impact occurs in employment when the hiring of candidates appears neutral but still leads to unfair treatment of a minority group, regardless of whether or not this is intentional, and this is calculated by dividing pass rates of White people by those from other racial backgrounds.

The figures also show that the common assumption that minority ethnic groups are less likely than White people to apply to become police officers is false – they are actually proportionately more likely.

There does not appear to be discrimination against female applicants, who have slightly higher pass rates than men.

An Avon & Somerset Police spokesperson said: “Since 2019 we’ve been working hard to increase our police officer numbers, knowing how much benefit this could bring to the public we serve.

“Through the Uplift programme we were set a target of recruiting an uplift of 456 officers and as of March 31, 2023, we have surpassed this, recruiting an uplift of 558 frontline officers.

“On top of meeting our overall growth target, we’ve also succeeded in creating a more diverse workforce, helping us to better represent the communities we serve.

“Between March 2020 and March 2023, the number of officers who have voluntarily declared their ethnicity as Black, Asian or mixed heritage has increased by 36 per cent, from 93 to 127.

“Statistics presented to us this week comparing the number of applicants versus the number of appointments made within Avon & Somerset appear to show a level of disproportionality among applicants of Asian or Black ethnicity.

“Mixed heritage candidates proportionately had a higher successful application rate than White candidates.

“We will carry out in-depth work to understand the figures and to identify any steps we may be able to take to address this.”

They said the force followed national guidance and assessment procedures for police officer recruitment set by the College of Policing.

“We also publish on our website contact details for teams who can help people applying, including our outreach team who support people from underrepresented groups who are considering joining the police,” the spokesperson said.

“There are multiple stages to the application process for the various recruitment schemes, and in the first of those the applicant will be asked questions about themselves.

“This will include information relating to their identity, right to work, as well as their protected characteristics, such as ethnicity, however the prospective candidate is not required to answer the latter if they would prefer not to.

“Where necessary, those that pass the automated stage and are counted as an applicant then may have their applications manually screened to further ascertain whether they are eligible to serve as a police officer, for example whether they meet the nationally required education standards or have a valid driving licence – if not, they will be contacted to see if they can provide such evidence.

“Only potential issues relating to eligibility are flagged to the initial assessment team and as such they would not access any information relating to the applicant’s ethnicity or any other personal characteristic.

“As the process continues, a number of candidates do decide to withdraw their application, and those that progress to the end will have to undergo vetting before being allowed to serve.

“In recent months we have publicly acknowledged the steps we are taking to tackle institutional racism and continue to seek to tackle any form of disproportionality within our practices or processes.

“Reflecting the wealth of different backgrounds and experiences across our communities remains a core commitment in the recruitment of officers and staff.”

Media Storm is releasing a series of weekly episodes every Thursday analysing the findings, featuring experts and stakeholders, with the first available here: https://podfollow.com/media-storm