Monday, 26 October 2015

The Home Secretary Is Hasty Over Police Diversity


Home Secretary Theresa May has just issued a so-called “wake-up call” to the police about its chronic shortage of black and ethnic minority officers – a failure she claims reduces public confidence in the force.

Alas, this is a nonsense narrative that fails at every basic level. Just because blacks and ethnic minorities are heavily outnumbered by white people in the police force does not mean that there is overt discrimination going on, much less that this supposed imbalance can and should be corrected by any kind of state mandated action. You would think someone pretty foolish if they said that the primary reason that there are so few female garage mechanics or female bricklayers is because women are being discriminated against. It's a short-sighted and hasty thing to presume that imbalances of gender or ethnicity in the workplaces are naturally due to discrimination.

Why might blacks and ethnic minorities be under-represented? Given that if you're an employer discrimination is an illogical thing to do as it harms you as well (as I explained in this blog post), the most obvious answer to the question is that blacks and ethnic minorities are under-represented because they are more difficult to recruit - probably due to a combination of the number that don't want to work in the police force, and the number that are unqualified or ill-equipped to do so.

Those who condemn discrimination and the supposed undermining of civil liberties by arguing that the police should positively discriminate in favour of more black and ethnic minorities are missing the fact that their proposal is simply another kind of discrimination with the signs reversed. Quite simply, you cannot artificially smooth the path for one group (whether it be for more black officers in the police force or more women in Parliament, or whatever) without artificially hindering the path of the rest of the group (or groups) that fall outside of the purview of the group for whom you are trying to positively discriminate. 

I'm all for looking for new ways to encourage more black and ethnic minority people to acquire the skills and enthusiasm to make themselves candidates for the police, if such things are lacking. But no one should be given a job purely because of their ethnicity or skin colour just to fill a quota.

Jobs should be awarded on two things; on merit (skills, experience, personality, enthusiasm) and on the basis that certain groups of people do actually want these jobs. If most women don’t want to be bricklayers, and if most police officers are white due to the pretext of merit, desire, or some other reason, then this needs to be acknowledged before anyone makes an automatic assumption of unfair discrimination and tries to redress a hastily perceived imbalance.
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