London police have appointed new officers without face-to-face interviews, raising concerns over the quality of candidates joining the force.
The use of online assessments has increased as the London Metropolitan Police – known locally as “The Met” – view recruitment as a “numbers game”, a recruitment consultant told The Times UK. The need to hire “thousands of officers” after austerity cuts put pressure on police to use whatever means necessary to increase the total number of officers.
In 2019, the Conservative Party led by Boris Johnson promised to recruit 20,000 new police officers.
A spokesman for the Met noted that the force had increased by more than 4,000 since 2018, and that the department would “continue to develop our processes to ensure that they are both efficient but importantly ensure that we Recruit the best for London.”
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“We assess individual applicants who are successful at this stage, evaluating their response to a number of role-play scenarios,” the spokesperson said. “We will launch an additional assessment at this stage later this year, in which candidates will be interviewed individually and assessed against our values of integrity, compassion, courage, professionalism and respect.”
Police previously abandoned in-person interviews as part of COVID-19 safety protocols during the pandemic, but brought them back after the United Kingdom got over its public health crisis.
Current applicants face an application process that relies on multiple-choice questions about scenarios, currently including role-playing situations with only a personal element. Officers do not face a background check after passing a health and fitness test.
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But the quality of the interviews has come under significant scrutiny after several scandals over the past few years, including the false arrest, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard in 2021.
And Police Constable David Carrick, 48, pleaded guilty to dozens of crimes including 24 rapes during his 20 years on the force. The Met’s lead for professionalism, Barbara Gray, called Carrick’s spree “phenomenal”, The Guardian reported.
According to The Daily Express, more than 1,000 serving officers and staff have faced allegations of domestic abuse and sexual offences.
A former MI5 chief warned that the force must end its “toxic” culture and “shut up, do what you’re told and salute” mentality.
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Lord Evans of Weardale, who sits on the standards in public life committee, said there were “major problems” in the department’s culture which discouraged officers from speaking up and reporting wrongdoing.
And a November 2022 report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services found recruits with no history of criminal behavior or links to organized crime routinely secure employment.
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“The general point is that for reasons that are now clear and should have been at all times, the investment of police forces in their recruitment process and the care with which they recruit people is clearly not as high as it should be ,” Parr, who wrote the Matt report, told The Times.