The son of a police chief who tried to join his father’s force was rejected for being ‘a white, heterosexual male without disability’.
Matthew Furlong, 25, had applied for his ‘dream job’ as a constable with Cheshire Police, where his father, Liam, 52, is a detective inspector.
He performed well in tests and at interview but the force was so desperate for more recruits from ethnic minorities or who were gay or transgender that it refused to hire him.
Mr Furlong, who has a degree in particle physics from Lancaster University, lodged a discrimination claim against Cheshire Police under equality legislation, and won.
It is believed to be the first successful case of its kind.
In a ruling last week a judge criticised the force for treating candidates with ‘protected characteristics’ – including those who were gay, transgender, disabled, black or from other ethnic minorities – more favourably than Mr Furlong, who was ‘a white, heterosexual male without disability’.
Mr Furlong, of Frodsham, Cheshire, declined to comment, but his father said: ‘I’ve tried not to get involved. It is such a political hot potato.
‘The chief constable is big on diversity, which is quite right, but it has to be applied within the letter of the law and they didn’t do that.’
The case came as the leader of Britain’s police chiefs called yesterday for radical laws to allow police to positively discriminate in favour of ethnic minority candidates.
Sara Thornton, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said unless changes were made, the rank and file would remain overwhelmingly white for decades to come. Mr Furlong’s employment tribunal in Liverpool was told that in 2015 chief officers at Cheshire Police launched an ‘action plan’ to recruit more black, Asian and female officers.
This followed a government review which revealed the force had no black officers, just five from Asian backgrounds and four of mixed race, compared to more than 1,400 white officers.
The force started holding recruitment and advertising days at pride events, faith centres and Sikh temples. It also appointed a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ‘positive action adviser’ to drive recruitment on social media.
The force’s then acting chief constable Janette McCormick, who now works at the College of Policing, believed ‘passionately about positive action and ... a diverse police force,’ the tribunal was told.
Judge Clare Grundy noted: ‘She is clearly a trailblazer who feels strongly that the force requires some significant change.’
Although officer numbers from minority groups rose by 2017, the plan was having only ‘a small effect’.
Mr Furlong was among about 675 candidates who applied to join Cheshire Police in September 2017 and was shortlisted a month later. He passed challenging tests and was invited for an interview, along with 182 others, in November.
Although the interview went well, with an inspector on the panel telling Mr Furlong he had been ‘refreshingly well-prepared’, he was rejected six days later. He was among 34 white male non-disabled candidates who were unsuccessful. All the black candidates were offered roles.
In feedback Mr Furlong was told there were not enough vacancies for all the 127 candidates who had passed the interview stage.
But Judge Grundy found the force had set the interview pass threshold ‘artificially low’ and candidates were awarded a simple pass or fail, which meant substantial numbers were ‘deemed equal’ when in reality some were much better than others.
The force did this so it could appoint officers from minority groups ahead of the best scoring people, the judge said.
She concluded that Mr Furlong, who now works as an analyst for an energy company, would have been offered a position had the force not applied ‘positive action’, and so he had been discriminated against.
His lawyer, Jennifer Ainscough, said he was denied his ‘dream job’ simply for being a ‘white, heterosexual male’.
She added: ‘Positive action ... must be applied lawfully to ensure the highest calibre of candidates are recruited regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.’
The force may be ordered to pay Mr Furlong damages at a remedy hearing, set for a later date. Cheshire Police said it would review the findings.