London’s police have appointed new officers without face-to-face interviews, raising concerns about the quality of candidates to join the force.
The use of online assessments has increased because London’s Metropolitan Police – known locally as The Metropolitan – view recruitment as a “numbers game”, an employment consultant told The Times UK. Push the police to use any means necessary to increase the number of officers.
Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party promised in 2019 to recruit 20,000 new police officers.
A Met spokesperson noted that the force had grown by more than 4,000 since 2018, and that the department would “continue to develop our operations to ensure their efficiency but importantly to ensure that the best of the best are employed in London”.
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“We personally assess successful applicants at this stage, and assess their response in a number of role-playing scenarios,” the spokesperson added. “We will be providing additional assessment at this point later this year, during which candidates will also be personally interviewed and assessed on our values of Integrity, Compassion, Courage, Professionalism and Respect.”
Police initially abandoned in-person interviews as part of their COVID-19 safety protocols during the pandemic, but reinstated them as the UK dealt with the public health crisis.
Existing applicants face an application process based on multiple choice questions about scenarios, with the only personal component currently involving role-playing situations. Officers do not face a background check until after they have taken health and physical fitness tests.
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But the quality of the interviews has gained significant scrutiny after a number of scandals have hit the Met over the past few years, including the false arrest, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard in 2021.
Police Officer David Carrick, 48, pleaded guilty to dozens of crimes, including 24 rapes, during his 20 years on the force. Barbara Gray, lead professional at the Met, called Carrick’s outburst “unprecedented,” The Guardian reports.
More than 1,000 officers and employees on duty have faced charges of domestic violence and sexual crimes, according to the Daily Express.
The former MI5 chief warned that the force had to reform its “toxic” culture and eradicate the “shut up, do what you’re told and salute” mentality.
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Lord Evans of Werdale, who sits on the Standards in Public Life committee, said the department’s culture had “significant problems” discouraging officers from speaking out and advocating wrongdoing.
A November 2022 report from HM Inspectorate of Police and Fire and Rescue Services found recruits with a history of criminal behavior or links to organized crime who had been given regular employment.
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“The general point, for reasons that are now clear and should have been all along, is that the police force’s investment in their recruitment process and the care with which they recruit people has clearly not been as great as it should have been,” Matt Barr, who wrote the report, told the Times.