Rogue officer fears after police invite failed job candidates back to meet targets

Police officer - Joe Giddens
Police officer - Joe Giddens

Police forces are inviting failed job candidates back in a “desperate” effort to meet Government recruitment targets, fuelling fears of rogue officers infiltrating the ranks, The Telegraph can reveal.

Ministers have insisted they remain on track to fulfil the Government’s flagship policy of hiring an extra 20,000 officers by the end of this month in its uplift programme.

However, forces cannot use the extra funding to hire officers beyond next week, meaning that many have resorted to “gaming the system” to get bodies through the door before the deadline.

They include the crisis-hit Metropolitan Police, which has been contacting failed applicants from as far back as 2019 to offer them another interview this year, it can be disclosed.

It comes despite the force being eviscerated in a recent review by Baroness Casey for its poor vetting and recruitment standards, which allowed dangerous predators such as Wayne Couzens and David Carrick to rise to elite units.

One senior police leader told The Telegraph that forces were “going to have to be b----- careful” if they used questionable tactics to hit recruitment targets.

Other insiders have claimed the hard deadline puts “the sword of Damocles” over police chiefs and accused the Government of playing “a numbers game” that will fail to bring in “fit, proper, rounded officers who are not going to create risk”.

The Telegraph has learnt that at least two forces – Essex Police and Kent Police – have offered candidates who failed their interviews a second chance while “strongly” advising them to attend workshops with tips on how to pass.

Some of the country’s biggest forces, including the Met Police and West Midlands Police, are choosing not to conduct proper interviews with candidates in person - a controversial approach that critics believe could allow dangerous individuals to slip the net.

Another force, Wiltshire Police, claims on its website that applicants must undergo a “final interview” before they can secure a job policing the region. But an email from its recruiting team, seen by The Telegraph, recently told an applicant: “There won’t be an interview to complete - that is the end of the process now.”

It has led to accusations that police forces are being deliberately misleading about the rigour of their recruitment process to disguise their desire to hire as many people as possible.

A source at one of the forces said of its recruitment methods: “Keen is a good word, but I would suggest ‘desperate’ is better.”

The revelations pose particularly difficult questions for the Met Police, which was specifically criticised in the Casey review for “seeming more concerned about hitting recruitment targets for financial reasons than about meeting objectives to address demand pressures, broaden the skill base or improve the diversity of the Met”.

An email seen by The Telegraph – titled “application update” – was sent by the Met’s recruitment team this year to a failed applicant from 2019, saying: “Please can you confirm if you are still interested in the position of Police Constable?”

Despite the fervent recruitment drive being pursued by some forces, it is still thought the Government’s target of 20,000 new officers may be missed.

Brendan O’Brien, founder of police recruitment consultancy Bluelight and a former officer, told The Telegraph: “Targets have always been the bane of the police. You set the police targets and they will game them – it is just inherent in their culture, they can’t help it. It’s been a problem for years.

“I used to be in the police – give me any target and I will tell you how to game it.

“Forces, for whatever reason, don’t feel the need to interview people for a career that is financially going to cost them more than £2 million throughout their lifetime in salary and pension. The Met will take anyone who passes their online assessment centre.

“If you don’t do that face-to-face interview, then you’re never going to be able to look in the whites of someone’s eyes and work out what values are important to them.”

Tim Rogers, the secretary of the West Midlands Police Federation, said the force was recruiting in “huge numbers” but the Government had nevertheless “lost the plot”.

He said: “There is an awful lot of tension there now. What is it that we want from our cops in the long term, and is that being achieved by the recruitment process?

“Now, if you look at it purely from a numbers perspective, we’re doing brilliantly and we give ourselves a hearty pat on the back. But is that success? Look a little bit further down the line and it probably isn’t.”

He added that money not spent on the uplift programme could be used to properly support new recruits and develop them “so they can be fit, proper, rounded officers that aren’t going to create risk for us”, but said: “Unfortunately, it’s just a numbers game [for the Government], which is not a great way of doing it – it’s a bit emotionally and strategically incoherent.”

‘Rigorous selection process’

Martin Hewitt, the outgoing chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, this week hailed the thousands of new officers who had joined the police in England and Wales.

However, he added: “The number of women coming in has significantly increased, but it has not gone so well with people from a minority heritage. There have been improvements but not as significant as we would have wanted those to be.”

A spokesman for the Met Police said all candidates go through a “rigorous selection process” that was “consistent nationally” and failed candidates were invited back if they were women or from “BAME backgrounds”.

The spokesman insisted standards had not been lowered and said an extra assessment stage would be added later this year to ensure candidates are interviewed in person.

A spokesman for Essex Police said candidates were offered the chance to retake interviews “where it is appropriate”, adding: “There are no shortcuts – they will still have to meet our high standards.”

A West Midlands Police spokesman said it used “approved national recruitment and assessment tools and standards”, which includes “an online competency-based interview”.

A spokesman for Kent Police said the force was on track to exceed its allocation as part of the national uplift programme, adding that opportunities for reassessment of failed candidates are provided “where we deem it appropriate to do so”.

A spokesman for Wiltshire Police said: “We are introducing final interviews for police officer applicants from April 2023.”