Jeanette Oldham, BirminghamLive,
White male officers were blocked from promotion by West Midlands Police in order to give women and ethnic minority candidates a better chance.
But the force has now ‘paused’ the application process after itself being accused of discrimination by the Police Federation union.
The controversial promotion system was drawn up by its newly formed People and Organisation Development (POD) which has an annual budget of more than £17 million.
POD was created last year and boasts a staff of more than 400 people, including its £123,000-a-year director, a Head of Diversity and Inclusion earning up to £65,751 per annum, a Positive Action Manager on £46,422 a year, and a Head of Wellbeing on up to £65,000 annually.
The promotion process was ‘paused’ after being labelled ‘not fit for purpose’ by West Midlands Police Federation, which had received complaints from white, male cops.
Officers were invited to apply for promotion on eight occasions over the past year under a new system.
On seven of those rounds, half of all the promotion slots were set aside for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) and women candidates.
The remaining 50 per cent were available to those who didn’t have “protected characteristics” under equality laws.
The Federation says the force was aspiring to having 33 per cent of its staff made up of BAME and female employees in the future. But it had protected 50 per cent of the promotion slots for them over the last year.
Then, on the eighth promotional round in September — involving inspectors applying to become chief inspectors — female and BAME candidates could apply for slots allocated to them from the Monday — but those without protected characteristics had to wait until the Wednesday to apply.
By the time white male officers were able to apply, it is claimed many of the limited promotion slots in the process had already been assigned.
The situation sparked up to 20 complaints from white male officers to the union and force.
Richard Cooke, chairman of West Midlands Police Federation, said members were in favour of boosting female and BAME numbers in higher ranked jobs.
But he added: “As far as the promotion process is concerned, we just want a fair level playing field for everybody.
“We would want people treated as individuals, not pigeon-holed according to their sex, race, whatever the diversity aspect is.
“Any sense of unfairness in the process can naturally be divisive and some officers felt that others may have been gaining an advantage somehow.
“I don’t think that is necessarily the case, but it feels wrong at a time when we’re all working flat out to serve the public.
“We want everyone treated on merit and I hope the force agrees with that.”
Tim Rogers, deputy secretary of West Midlands Police Federation’s branch council, wrote an article about the promotion for the union’s magazine.
“The Force and Federation are committed ‘to increasing representation at all levels in the organisation’,” he said.
“The Force has an obligation to all of its staff and should be mindful of well-intended positive action being illegal positive discrimination.”
He added that the Federation was “concerned that the force, in being committed to procedural justice and fairness in policing in terms of the service it provides to communities, is failing in its duty to treat its own staff fairly.
“The Federation is raising its concerns with the force and calling for further changes to be made to the promotions processes.”
The POD department has an annual budget of £17.3 million and covers HR matters including payroll. employee relations, occupational health, mental health and staff training and development.
Ali Layne-Smith, Director of People and Organisation Development at West Midlands Police, told the Birmingham Mail: “We changed our promotions processes over a year ago and have run eight rounds of assessment since then, across the ranks.
“We have seen a significant increase in the number of people from under-represented groups who have been promoted, including women and BAME candidates, which is part of our ongoing commitment to ensuring the force is more representative of the communities we serve.
“This is the first time that West Midlands officers have had such open access to personal development and preparation support before attending a promotions assessment centre, and for their views to be heard in the planning and design of the promotions strategy.
“Our positive action approach supports officers from all under-represented groups, including women, LGBTQ colleagues, people with disabilities, members of BAME communities and colleagues who perceive age to be a factor.
“Those who receive support ultimately access the same opportunities as other officers, and every officer that enters our promotion process has to achieve a specific standard.
“For all of our promotions processes we ensure that we have a number of dedicated assessment slots for officers from under-represented groups.
“Any of these places that are not used are made available to all officers. As we have been running the processes for over a year we’ve taken the opportunity to pause and review how they are going.”